Legislature sees 2nd proposal to eliminate higher ed boardBISMARCK — Another constitutional amendment to overhaul North Dakota’s higher education system is being discussed in the Legislature.
By: Ryan Johnson, Forum News Service
BISMARCK — Another constitutional amendment to overhaul North Dakota’s higher education system is being discussed in the Legislature.
Senate Concurrent Resolution 4028, introduced this week by Sen. Joe Miller, R-Park River, would eliminate the State Board of Higher Education, which has been in place since 1938, in favor of a newly created “council of regents.”
The council would appoint a chancellor who would serve as CEO of the North Dakota University System, similar to the current structure under the board.
But Miller said the current board, with seven citizen members and one student representative, isn’t subject to elections because members are appointed by the governor and approved by the Senate.
“It seems somehow it loses its connection to the people somewhere along that line,” he said.
It also is a different approach to reforming higher education than House Concurrent Resolution 3042, introduced this week by Rep. Rick Becker, R-Bismarck. That constitutional amendment would get rid of the board and create the elected office of higher education commissioner.
Miller’s plan would make the chancellor position appointed by the council of regents. But the chancellor would gain the authority to appoint and remove campus presidents — a power now held by the board.
Another change, he said, is the council would be made up of three voting members who are subject to elections: the governor or a designee of the governor, the superintendent of public instruction and the agriculture commissioner.
The council also would include eight nonvoting members, two appointed by the governor and three selected by the majority leader in both the House and Senate.
Miller said this would give the Legislature a “venue” to make its opinions known, but still let the chancellor lead the system with only a three-member council to answer to.
“I want to make sure that there’s some space between the politics and the ability for the chancellor to do his job,” he said.
Miller said the proposal isn’t a “dig” at Chancellor Hamid Shirvani, and that he opposed a vote Wednesday in the Senate to fund a contract buyout for the embattled leader. It’s also not meant as an attack on current board members.
“But I just think what I’ve seen over the last several years is the board has got some kind of institutional problem that doesn’t give it the ability to effectively execute what it should be doing,” he said. “I just see a problem that can’t be fixed, so to speak, and we need to think about changing the whole thing.”
If approved by the Senate and passed in the House, the proposal would go to a public vote in November 2014. The changes would take effect Jan. 1, 2015.