State Board of Higher Education members hear details on studies regarding cost containment, mission, tuition and fees, shared services and retention
After an historic joint meeting with the Interim Legislative Higher Education Committee earlier in the day this Wednesday, the State Board of Higher Education was ready to learn about recent studies that had been progressing forward in the new year. Numerous topics were discussed at the North Dakota State University Alumni Center, including a recent security event at Bismarck State College, the Chancellor’s Cabinet studies, NexusND, and the North Dakota University System Foundation.
Ensuring campus security
SBHE Chair Kathleen Neset took time during the meeting to praise BSC President Larry Skogen on his handling of a recent security issue at his campus. Skogen briefed the Board on what happened during the incident, including how the Federal Bureau of Investigation had learned of the purported threat to the point where an arrest was made of the minor who was alleged to have made it. Skogen said the FBI office in Minot had learned of a Twitter posting where the account claimed to be planning a shooting on the BSC campus. After tracking the location of the person who made the tweet to the BSC campus it was decided to lock down the campus.
During that time the Bismarck Police Department, Burleigh County Sheriff’s Department and other agencies responded to the campus to help assess the threat and respond to it as safely as possible. After setting up an incident command site at the library, law enforcement began a room-by-room search of the campus. After the nearly five-hour ordeal, Skogen said there were some lessons learned. He noted that the communications process had been great, providing updates through the phone notification system regularly.
“The most valuable thing for us is that we had been through a couple tabletop exercises and asked ‘what if’? so when this happened it wasn’t the first time we’d talked about it. So that was helpful,” he said. “The other thing – and this is a sign of the times – the students all knew how to react. They’d practiced it in grade school and high school.”
Skogen said the FBI had continued the investigation, and had indicated to him that it would be handed over to the state. He added that the incident had prompted campus leadership to look at the way doors could be locked, and that steps were being taken to ensure all doors could be locked from the inside.
Neset commended Skogen for the way it was handled and expressed her thanks that it had ended peacefully.
Sen. Tim Flakoll spoke next on the topic relating to security, touching on how campus police interacted with other law enforcement. He brought up a document had been drafted by the Legislative Council, which could serve as a template for formal working agreements between campus and municipal police, as well as addressing cross-jurisdictional responsibilities.
“It’s been discussed with some campuses that have a police force, as well as the Attorney General’s office, to have a draft before the 2017 session and we wanted to get it on everyone’s radar on how that would get accomplished,” Flakoll noted during his report. “It’s our mutual goal to have safe campuses, so that when parents send their kids here we’re doing the best we can to make sure that it goes well for them.”
The need for agreements was prompted by a N.D. Supreme Court ruling last year that limited the jurisdiction of campus police.
Chancellor Mark Hagerott then gave his report, first welcoming University of North Dakota President Ed Schafer and Dickinson State University President Thomas Mitzel, before moving into the topics of budget guidelines, his cabinet studies, NexusND, and Bakken U.
Schafer said that he and his wife had been welcomed with open arms to the UND campus, and that there were challenges at the campus that he would like to see met.
Mitzel said that he’d been welcomed with unmatched enthusiasm at DSU, and he was quickly bringing himself up-to-speed to address issues on campus, such as enrollment. He added that the re-founding of the DSU Foundation had been a positive sign of the university’s progress forward.
Hagerott said work in the upcoming months, including the cabinet studies and standardization projects already underway, would feed into the higher educational summit called Envision 2030 to be held in May.
NDUS Chief Financial Officer Tammy Dolan then provided an outline to the budget so far.
“We started in December working on an outline based on our budget allotment. We planned for a 2.5 percent cut, and now know that it will be more than four percent,” Dolan said. “The total that we’ll need to save from the general fund is $41 million across all institutions. It will affect everything. So we need to come up with a plan.”
Dolan said she’d be working with the institutions respective financial teams, and that each president would be submitting more detailed plans later this month.
The meeting provided a venue for updates on most of the six studies being undertaken by the Chancellor’s Cabinet. The studies, on governance, cost containment, mission, tuition and fees, shared services, and retention were divided up to address concerns from constituent groups. Hagerott noted that the Board would receive details on all the studies but cost containment, which would require more budget analysis before progressing forward. More concrete details are expected at the March SBHE meeting.
Board Member Mike Ness spoke on the governance study, and asked the other Board members and presidents for input. Hagerott said that as presidents’ goals were reviewed this spring he would ask Board members to participate in the review process. Other Board members voiced what they felt were pros and cons of the plan, which would focus on growth of campuses.
Mayville State University President Gary Hagen then reported on the retention study. He noted that the role of the study included four distinct parts: successful implementation of Predictive Analytic Reporting, ensuring appropriate graduation and retention metrics for continuous improvements, reporting progress and challenges to the chancellor and SBHE, and providing for ad hoc committee oversight when needed.
North Dakota State College of Science President John Richman spoke next on the tuition and fees cabinet study. He said it would involve such actions as analyzing the state model, comparing it to other models and reviewing revenue sources for each campus. Later phases would involve looking at waivers and how they tied into tuition.
Minot State University President Steven Shirley spoke next on the shared services study. He said that “quite a few” shared actions were happening already throughout the system, either between two campuses or among multiple campuses. He said that the study would look at those types of campus cooperative agreements, and to see if they could find systemwide application. Other opportunities for short-, mid-, and long-term shared services existed in such areas as payroll, internal auditing, human resources, learning management systems and more.
Skogen then spoke about the study on mission, noting that it would involve workforce and education needs. He said that the study would need to look at numbers, diversity and knowledge.
An initiative that would combine proposed high-tech efforts was next on the Board’s agenda. Josh Riedy, the vice provost and chief strategy officer at UND, spoke on NexusND. The proposed initiative would combine Cybersecurity efforts with High Performance Computing and Unmanned Systems.
Riedy said those three topics were the “three pillars” of NexusND, which would create opportunities for regional partnerships and take advantage of the state’s agile education system.
“Ultimately this would make North Dakota the most attractive environment possible,” he said, noting that each of the three pillars held an opportunity itself. “With these we can move outside the traditional sectors of agriculture and energy.”
Hagerott added that recent events in the world of cybersecurity helped underscore the need for further research in many aspects of the cyber world, a need that the NDUS’ 11 public colleges and universities could help address.
Riedy said that the three pillars would each have its own working group. The university system would lead HPC, UND would lead the UAS working group and NDSU would lead the working group on Cybersecurity. He added that NexusND would actualize the SBHE’s approved concept for a Collaborative Center for Computation and Data, which would be a key player for the region’s economic development.
Morton stated that an inventory was underway on research projects at NDSU and UND. He said the timing for NexusND was great. He added that for Microsoft in Fargo, where he is a site leader, there was massive interest in business development in the area.
“It will be interesting to see where all this goes,” he said. “As you look down the road you can see that we need all 11 campuses. You’ll need trained personnel. Working together not only brings out the best in all of us, it brings out the best in each of us.”
Hagerott said there had been a wonderful response from the five western schools under the Bakken U initiative. One $5,000 scholarship had been awarded under Bakken U, Minot had awarded its own scholarships, and both Williston and Dickinson were working on scholarships of their own.
Heads of research from the two research institutions spoke to the Board during the meeting on efforts at their respective universities to protect intellectual property.
Dr. Kelly Rusch, NDSU, noted that many times IP was used to refer to the creation of widgets, but that wasn’t necessarily accurate. She noted that it was most often defined as being research or the process of research. A research foundation at NDSU existed to, in part, help protect the intellectual property that was created there. She added that licensing revenue had hit an all-time high of nearly $2.6 million through dozens of patents.
Dr. Grant McGimpsey, UND, discussed intellectual property at UND, noting that from his experience it was typically a result of federal research funding and often required a ‘market push’ when what researchers were hoping for was a ‘market pull.’ He said that an expanded IP strategy at UND was to be both open for business and open to business, adding that a corporate engagement effort could lead companies to partnerships with the university.
A nonprofit foundation aimed at supporting higher education in the state was given new life during the Board meeting.
The SBHE unanimously approved five trustees who were named to guide the North Dakota University System Foundation into the future. The foundation had been dormant until recent years when interest piqued in bringing it back to life as a fundraising arm of the NDUS.
Those named as candidates for the foundation are Dr. Larry Skogen, Bismarck State College president; John Backes, attorney with McGee Law Firm; Mike Warner, found and board member of Pedigree Technology; Sen. Erin Oban, and Rep. Cynthia Schreiber Beck. As per foundation by-laws, the SBHE president and vice president will also serve as trustees. However, SBHE Vice President Don Morton has expressed a desire to relinquish his trustee position. Due to that, Dr. Kevin Melicher was suggested as his replacement. Hagerott will serve as an ex-officio, non-voting trustee.
SBHE President Kathleen Neset and Melicher will serve as trustees for the duration of their term with the Board. Skogen, Backes and Warner will hold four-year terms. Oban and Schreiber Beck will each hold two-year terms.
All candidates were approved for inclusion as named trustees to the foundation.
Originally founded in 1991 and having 501(c)(3) status, the Foundation exists with a broad purpose of supporting, enriching, advancing and improving higher education in the state of North Dakota. The stated goal of the Foundation is to “provide a mechanism to collect donations from companies and individuals who want to support higher education, as a whole, in North Dakota and fund larger, system wide initiatives, such as Bakken U or Cybersecurity.
Dr. Richard Rothaus brought forward a request from UND for Dr. and Mrs. Robert Kelley to be named as President Emeritus and First Lady Emeritus of the university. Rothaus said that the request was in line with policy and had much precedent. Morton and Hagerott said they felt the request was both appropriate and fitting, and should be granted. The Board unanimously approved the request.
Hagerott noted that there would be cost savings in the near future by moving NDUS personnel from their current office space in the Horizon building near BSC to offices in the state capitol.
The Board also heard brief updates on the search for the NDUS Compliance Officer and Director of Audit Services, positions which had been offered to, and accepted by, Karol Riedman and Laura Anne Schratt, respectively.
In other business the Board approved the consent agendas for the Budget, Finance and Facilities Committee, as well as for the Academic and Student Affairs Committee. It also held the first readings of policies HR 13 (employment of relatives), 402.1 (first-year applicants), the first reading and adoption of policies 608.2 (NDUS employee non-renewal and dismissal), 703.1 (early retirement), 707 (severance pay), and it held the second readings of policies HR 2 (appointments), HR 5 (pay policy), 820 (tuition waivers/tuition assistance) and 402.11 (test of high school equivalency).
The Board also changed the dates for the May meeting to May 23-24, and rescheduled the July retreat to June. The next Board meeting will take place March 15 at UND.