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Higher ed group against Measure 3

GRAND FORKS -- The Association of Governing Boards has come out against a constitutional amendment that could restructure North Dakota's system of higher education governance. Voters will decide in November whether to replace the current eight-me...

 

GRAND FORKS - The Association of Governing Boards has come out against a constitutional amendment that could restructure North Dakota’s system of higher education governance.

 

Voters will decide in November whether to replace the current eight-member State Board of Higher Education with a three-member full-time commission appointed by several state officials and a representative of an educational interest group.

 

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Association President Richard Legon wrote an opinion article for the Grand Forks Herald in which he said voters shouldn’t approve Measure 3, as the constitutional amendment is commonly known, because the proposed commission would lack autonomy, jeopardize accreditation and potentially hurt economic growth.

 

"There are so many risks tied to this thing, this initiative, that don’t need to be taken since it’s just a bad idea," Legon said in an interview. "It’s bad policy. It goes against the historic upside value of full boards, of people who are not so obviously attached to government and who sit together to affect institutional strategy and policy."

 

The Association of Governing Boards is a national group representing college leadership bodies.

 

State Board Chairwoman Kirsten Diederich said she wasn’t surprised by the AGB’s opinion and that the measure’s potential threat to accreditation should be seriously considered.

 

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"The AGB is there to support boards that govern institutions and they have training sessions on what a board needs to do or a campus needs to do to maintain accreditation so they know as well as anybody else does what it takes to be accredited and how important it is," she said.

 

Risky business

 

Even though the AGB is doing consulting work with the SBHE, Legon said it had nothing to do with the decision to publicly speak against Measure 3.

 

"The fact that we happen to be there couldn’t be more of a coincidence," he said. "We saw what was happening on this proposed constitutional measure and I would have reacted the same way had we been in the board room or not been in the board room. This is too important both for the citizens and the institutions and the students in North Dakota, and really for folks across the country."

 

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About a month ago, the Higher Learning Commission released a report stating Measure 3 seemed acceptable on its face but posed "significant risks" to the accreditation of North Dakota’s 11 institutions.

 

The Higher Learning Commission requires a governing board have autonomy, which Legon said isn’t a part of Measure 3.

 

"For three people to be charged with the responsibility of being the stewards and the policy leaders of these important state colleges and universities fails in the face of the need for an array of expertise and input and judgment that, as smart as these three people may be, will be limited just by virtue of the number," he said.

 

Legon said the measure isn’t worth the risk, noting that even if the measure passes and the HLC green-lights the new commission, the controversy could still scare away potential business considering opening in Grand Forks, faculty or students.

 

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