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Other Views: A better way to hire educators

FARGO -- The 2017 Legislature should approve a change in North Dakota's open meetings/open records laws that would keep private the initial list of names of applicants for college and university presidents and the University System's chancellor. ...

FARGO -- The 2017 Legislature should approve a change in North Dakota’s open meetings/open records laws that would keep private the initial list of names of applicants for college and university presidents and the University System’s chancellor. The early lists are meaningless in that most of the applicants will be screened out. The record should be open when search committees and the State Board of Higher Education have reduced a long list to a few finalists, one of whom will get the job.
There is no credible public or media purpose in keeping open the early list of applicants. Indeed, a case can be made that doing so discourages excellent candidates from considering a North Dakota job because they don’t want their current employer to know they are looking elsewhere. The open records structure as it exists guarantees an applicant could not keep his/her intentions from a current employer. That factor likely discourages potentially excellent campus administrators from considering a top higher ed position in North Dakota.
Keepers of the open records status quo say a new exception in the law would be “the slippery slope.” That need not be. The law is rife with reasonable exceptions, and proposals for unreasonable or self-serving exceptions routinely have been turned down. Among the exceptions in law that make sense are medical records, juvenile proceedings, certain proprietary business data, specific discussions between a public body and attorneys, recordings of narrowly defined 911 calls, and a few others. But none of the exceptions is a slippery slope concern. North Dakota has the most transparent and accessible open records/open meetings protocol in the nation. That’s not about to change.
Furthermore, The Forum and Forum Communications Co. have been leaders in challenging attempts to circumvent the laws, and have been recognized frequently with freedom-of-information accolades. We do not take lightly a call to change the process of vetting and hiring of campus presidents and the higher ed chancellor.
It’s a common-sense modification. North Dakota higher education wants world-class leaders, and for the most part has had them on the campuses. For the most part. Bad hires - very few - have been made. But what is not known is how many highly qualified educators/administrators declined to apply for a North Dakota campus presidency because of the open records requirement. If North Dakota wants the best, the state should make it easier for the best to apply. A minor adjustment, when sensibly balanced with the tradition of open government, can accomplish that goal.
The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead’s Editorial Board formed this opinion.

 

Related Topics: EDUCATION
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