State Board of Higher Education votes to exempt faculty leave from reconciliation of ‘data inconsistencies’
Among numerous topics handled by North Dakota’s higher education board this month were a final discussion on the contentious topic of faculty sick leave, as well as a review of tuition policies going into the budget planning cycle.
Policy 607.5, concerning faculty leave, was up for second reading after months of being a top agenda item for the State Board of Higher Education. After having been previously tabled to allow both members of the faculty and the Board to review it in more detail, the topic was due for a decision. Chief Compliance Officer Karol Riedman once again provided a synopsis of the rule change regarding faculty leave, which had been proposed after a legislative mandate calling for reconciliation of data inconsistencies throughout the university system. One such inconsistency was in the way leave was handled from campus-to-campus. After considerable discussion, the Board moved to table 607.5 indefinitely, which would require additional Board action to ever bring the topic back to a future agenda. The motion to table ultimately failed, unanimously.
A second motion to defeat the policy change was made. During discussion, Board member Mike Ness said that since the change had been prompted by legislative action, that it would be prudent for the Board to instead wait to take action to confer with legislators on the topic. Board member Casey Ryan asked how the Board could go forward with legislative intent to reconcile this perceived data inconsistency and find a policy that worked for all 11 public colleges and universities. He added that there should possibly be a statement allowing for the separate institutions to have flexibility on the subject. Board Chair Don Morton agreed that flexibility and autonomy was highly beneficial to the individual campuses, who could have different situations that prompted differing local need. Board Vice Chair Greg Stemen said legislative intent did exist to reconcile data inconsistencies, many of which he felt had been addressed by the system office staff. He added that tabling the issue further could allow the Board to communicate with the legislature on how this particular issue was one that could be exempted from the data inconsistencies mandate, noting that exhaustive research, work and discussion had prompted the decision. The second motion was then rescinded.
A final motion was then made for the Board to take no action on Policy 607.5, which found a quick second. Brief discussion relating to procedural rules was followed by a Board vote, and the motion passed with unanimous approval.
The Board heard guidelines and revisions during the second readings of Policy 805.1 (tuition), 805.1.4 (negotiated course or program fees), 805.2 (student activity fees), 805.3 (fees), 805.3.1 (distance learning courses), 820 (waivers and tuition assistance) and 830.2 (refunds). Vice Chancellor for Administrative Affairs / Chief Financial Officer Tammy Dolan briefed the Board on potential changes to the policies, which among other things called for a restructuring of fees. All policy changes were approved unanimously.
The Board held first readings for Policies HR 6, 7 and 12, as well as Policy 1202.1 (acceptable use of information technology resources), and second readings of Policies 1202.2 (NDUS incident response policy), and 804 (equipment and personal property leases). These policy changes were approved unanimously.
Dolan and Rick Tonder brought forward the recommendations from the Budget and Finance Committee. Those included tuition implementation plans at Dakota College at Bottineau, Dickinson State University, Lake Region State College, Mayville State University, Minot State University, North Dakota State College of Science, Valley City State University and Williston State College. Additionally, the committee recommended approval for NDSCS to modify its 2016 master plan section on deferred maintenance; for Program and Enrollment Driven needs for Bismarck State College, LRSC, and North Dakota State University; for University of North Dakota to proceed with paving and reconstruction projects regarding parking lots; for UND to proceed with an O’Kelly Hall remodel; and for NDSU to proceed with fundraising for a greenhouse facility through the NDSU Foundation. All were approved.
Ness brought forward recommendations from the Academic and Student Affairs Committee, including the granting of tenure to 61 faculty members. Ness also noted that the committee had discussed a formal reaffirmation of tenure, particularly due to previous years’ budget cuts and how staff and faculty had gone without raises due to decreased budgets. Ness noted that tenure was an inexpensive, yet highly positive benefit to offer, and should be protected.
Additionally, the recommendations called for the creation of several new programs, including a Graduate Certificate in Online Digital Teaching at MaSU; a Certificate and Minor in Entrepreneurship at NDSU; a B.A.S in Management from VCSU; a Minor in Fitness and Wellness Specialist at MiSU; a Master of Landscape Architecture at NDSU; and a Graduate Certificate in Counseling with a K-12 Emphasis at UND. Organizational changes were brought forward to separate the current Provost and Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs position to the Vice President for Academic Affairs and Vice President for Student Affairs; and change the reporting structure for the Office of College Relations from the Associate Vice President for Finance and Operations to the President. To conclude the recommendations, one program termination was recommended for NDSU’s Bachelor of Landscape Architecture. All were approved.
Board member Kathy Neset provided an update on the Governance Committee, noting that progress was being made with Blackboard, as well as working being undertaken by S.B. 2003 and possibility of strengthening the Board’s mentorship process.
Stemen provided an update on the Audit Committee, stating that the committee heard a report on NDSU’s emergency preparedness plan.
Chancellor Mark Hagerott’s report included a brief on the 2019-21 Governor’s Budget Guidelines, an update on the work being undertaken by task forces in accordance with Senate Bill 2003, and an informational update on Blackboard.
Among other topics, the Board members spoke on the recommendation from the Governor’s Office of cuts as high as 13 percent. Ness noted that those cuts when combined with the previous years’ decreases weren’t something the Board could just accept. He stated that with cuts leading to frozen salaries, dropped academic and athletic programs and other major changes, the Board should support the system in maintaining the budget it had. Faculty Advisor to the Board Birgit Pruess noted that the system was worth fighting for, and the Board would need to look at what was acceptable and realistic. Ryan noted that it would be vital to get the Board’s message out as quickly as possible, and that the Governor’s budget recommendation was still only a recommendation. He added that the Board needed to have a strong message on behalf of the best of what the colleges and universities had to offer. Board member Kevin Melicher stated that it would also be important to find ways to help stabilize funding in the future. Morton said that recommendations for 90 or 95 percent budgets weren’t unheard of in the past, and that there were reasons to be cautiously optimistic given the current economic outlook. Dolan said that university system was going to work closely with the presidents to ensure that local needs could be addressed as realistically as possible.
Council of College Faculty President Debora Dragseth. Dragseth noted that the Faculty/Staff summit was very successful and represented by all campuses. She noted it was a positive, upbeat and forward-looking meeting. Dragseth noted that CCF had discussed other issues elsewhere that were affecting the system, such as a new UND partnership and proposed BSC business contract with Saudi Arabia.
State Staff Senate President Retha Mattern noted that staff elections would be taking place, the senate was planning its summer retreat at MaSU, the Faculty/Staff Envision 2030 Summit was a great opportunity for staff to work together with faculty on behalf of students. She highlighted some details that participants had focused on, including introducing more language about skilled trades, expanding the topic of “Law” to “Legal Systems,” and expanding the Health Care pillar to include more focus on careers outside of nursing.
In other business, the Board granted President Emeritus status and bestowed the title of First Lady Emerita to Pres. and Mrs. Gary Hagen. Additionally, the Board approved UND’s new mission Statement, and recommended appointments to SBARE and the N.D. AG Coalition.
The Board then heard public comment from an alumnus of UND. Andrew Alexis Varvel asked the Board to rescind permission for a demolition project of Corwin-Larimore Hall and Robertson-Sayre Hall, which were formerly part of Wesley College. He also asked that the Board adopt a policy that all further demolitions be held during legislative session. He added that the former Wesley College site held significance across numerous cultural and historical areas.
The next scheduled Board meeting is set for May 23 at BSC.