The State Board of Higher Education heard numerous proposals and policy revisions at its meeting this month, including a technology commercialization proposal from the Department of Commerce, and revisions to a policy regarding faculty sick leave. Early in the meeting, Commerce Secretary Jay Schuler presented to the Board on the topic of technology transfer, noting during his presentation that the missions of the two organizations had interesting overlap at times. His overarching message: Jobs, jobs, jobs. Schuler spoke largely about the protection of jobs and intellectual property in the state, both of which could help foster long-term economic growth. Schuler spoke at length from his background with Giant Snacks, the nationally-recognized, local food brand known for its sunflower seeds. Schuler also talked with the Board about breaking down silos so that cooperation among business, industry and education could flourish.
Schuler also introduced Pam York, who provided an analysis on technology commercialization within college and university systems. She noted that regional economies that included colleges and universities benefitted highly from university “knowledge spillover” much more than those without systems of higher education. She added that university startups had a proven track record of creating “economic development and superior performance.”
Following the morning presentation, the Board held policy readings, including the first readings of policies 402.1.2 (student placement into college course), 917 (smoke-free facilities), and 803.2 (purchasing), and the second readings of policies 607.5 (faculty leave) and 916.1 (possession of a firearm or dangerous weapon in a campus residence). The latter two policies were those that had generated significant feedback from the campuses in the preceding months.
Chief Compliance Officer Karol Riedman provided insights on the background and frequently asked questions about the sick leave policy. She noted that the formal conversation was prompted by House Bill 1003 in 2015, which referred to data inconsistencies. One of those inconsistencies was a difference among campuses in how they addressed sick leave and accrual. By January 2017, a working group was staffed by campus representatives, who worked out the details of the policy in the following year.
After extensive discussions and revisions, the Human Resource Council, Council of College Faculty and Academic Affairs Council all approved the final version before the Board, with one major revision that brought it into compliance with 2017 legislation. As it currently read, faculty sick leave would begin at the date of appointment to position and have no redeemable cash value, although certain payouts up to 10 percent of accrued leave could be grandfathered in at campus discretion. Among other things, the policy would provide for a consistent non-accrual sick leave policy for all faculty, and it defined short-term sick leave, long-term sick leave, compensation during long-term sick leave, parental leave and more. Ultimately the policy discussion was tabled pending further review.
Chancellor Mark Hagerott provided a brief update on an Emerging Technology Working Group, followed by an update from Board member Kevin Melicher on the NDUS Foundation’s fundraising outlook, which included recent participation in Giving Hearts Day.
Board member Casey Ryan then provided a brief update on the presidential search at Mayville State University, where the search is underway to replace President Gary Hagen, who’s been at the university nearly four decades. He noted that out of the original 49 applications, 12 individuals had been selected for interviewing and the current applicant pool was down to five finalists. Strategic Analytics Coordinator Ryan Jockers provided a brief update on the planning process for presidential evaluations. He said the planning process would be wrapping up soon, with the biggest change being that the evaluations would be staggered by tier.
Vice Chancellor of Strategy and Strategic Engagement James “Phil” Wisecup then provided the Board with brief updates concerning the Envision 2030 initiative and the Senate Bill 2003 studies. Wisecup noted that both a student and faculty summit were scheduled to hear generate feedback to include in the final recommendations document due out this spring. On the campus studies, Wisecup stated that final report-outs and recommendations would also be coming this spring.
Chief Information Officer/Vice Chancellor of Information Technology Darin King spoke the expansion and utilization of BlackBoard. King provided a detailed account of BlackBoard usage across the system, including metrics, campus-level traffic and the tracking of performance problems. Board member Mike Ness provided the Board with recommendations from the Academic and Student Affairs Committee. Those recommendations included new programs such as an undergraduate certificate and Associate of Applied Science in Human Resource Management at Dakota College at Bottineau; and a minor and Bachelor of Science in Entrepreneurship at Minot State University. All recommendations were approved.
Under that committee report, Dr. Jeff Holm provided an update on distance learning at University of North Dakota. Following that was a report from Director of Student Affairs Katie Fitzsimmons, who touched on the growing needs at the campus levels.
Ryan then provided recommendations from the Budget and Finance Committee. Included in that report was an interim authorization for North Dakota State University to retain the law firm of Stinson Leonard Street LLP to defend the lawsuit initiated by Roers Construction, Inc. relating to the A. Glenn Hill Building; and establish a deficiency fund to pay the costs of the litigation in the expectation that NDSU will seek reimbursement of such costs through a deficiency appropriation in a future legislative session. Other recommendations were for NDSU to proceed with a fundraising campaign; for UND School of Medicine and Health Science to transfer funding to UND; for UND to raze two buildings; for Lake Region State College to increase mandatory fees by $6 per hour; for Valley City State University to proceed with repairs on the Lokken Field outdoor track field; and for MiSU to proceed with maintenance and renovation of MiSU Dome seating. All recommendations were approved. Board member Kathleen Neset then provided an update from the Governance Committee, including details on the chancellor evaluation process, and committee charters and policies. Board Vice chair Greg Stemen provided the Board with an update on the Audit Committee’s report. Representatives from North Dakota Student Association, Council of College Faculties and North Dakota State Staff Senate also took time to update the Board on their respective groups.
In other business, the Board also heard updates on the UND Steam Plant, and spent some time in executive session to discuss a complaint filed against the university system with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission as well as the North Dakota Department of Labor and Human Rights. The next Board meeting is scheduled for March 28 and will included the MaSU Presidential Search.