The State Board of Higher Education held its first meeting of the year this week, touching on several topics ranging from several updated policies to committee reports and more. Of particular importance was information regarding the 66th Legislative Session. Chief Financial Officer Tammy Dolan provided the Board with an update on the current legislative session, including an overview of current bills being considered that may have an impact on higher education.
Additionally, the Board took up discussion regarding proposed changes to the way it governs.
Board member Casey Ryan provided the Governance Committee report, which included Chancellor’s Cabinet Survey and Committee Tier Proposal. Ryan noted that overall, the governance committee was pleased with the results of the cabinet survey. Significant discussion followed on the Tier proposal, including talk of how many members would be included in order to create the best working committee, as well as brief discussion to whether or not it would be possible to add more members to the Board itself.
Board Member Kathleen Neset noted that if reform were necessary it wouldn’t amount to a complete overhaul of the system.
“The higher education system continues to evolve and change, rapidly,” Neset stated. “In order for us to stay nimble and quick enough, and in order for us to stay relevant, we really have to stay up to those standards.”
Neset added that the Board could continue being proactive and consider changes within a six-month timeframe, which could allow it to lay the groundwork for any changes now rather than wait for a public referendum. Ultimately, the Board decided to bring the topic up for more formal discussion when it holds its next face-to-face meeting.
After the Department of Education issued the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Title IX, Eric Olson and Chris Pieske presented on the proposed changes at the December Board meeting. After the Board instructed Chancellor Mark Hagerott and staff to seek feedback from stakeholders and relevant education-focused groups, a group led by Director of Student Affairs Katie Fitzsimmons, Interim Vice Chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs Lisa Johnson, Chris Pieske, and Eric Olson consulted with neighboring states, the American Council on Education, the NDUS Title IX task force, and Chancellor’s cabinet for feedback. Based on that feedback, the group prepared draft comments for review by the chancellor’s cabinet and Board. However, no final comments were recommended for submission to the Dept. of Education, while recognizing the importance of the issues presented. Hagerott noted that he plans to informally convey the concerns set forth in the comments to WICHE and MHEC. The comment period remains open until Jan. 30, and interested individuals, groups, or campuses are able to submit any comments before that date.
The board also held first readings for Policies 307.1 (Institutional Organization Notice and Approval), 404.1 (Distance Education Program Approval), Policy 331 (Approval of College and University Constitutions by the Board), 340.1 (State Forester), 350.2 (Work Force Training Boards), 1205.1 (State Longitudinal Data System), 901 (Campus Planning and Facilities), 902.0 (Definitions), 902.1 (Construction Process-Legislative Approval), 902.3 (Requests for Construction, Renovation & Remodeling; Change Orders; Changes in Project Scope or Size), 902.12 (Building Names), 902.5 (Construction Process), 903 (Sale, Removal, or Alteration of Buildings), 1910.2 (Use of State Vehicle); and the second readings of Policies 409 (Degrees Offered) and 440 (Enrollment Reporting).
Hagerott brought forward the approval of tenure for Valley City State University President Alan LaFave, which was unanimously approved under a recent policy providing tenure to presidents who had previously earned tenure in other institutions..
Olsen also spoke on the ratification of contracts for Dickinson State University President Tom Mitzel, Mayville State University President Brian Van Horn, and President LaFave. All found unanimous approval.
Hagerott provided his report, which included an update to University of North Dakota President Mark Kennedy’s mid-term review. The review was not directly brought up at the meeting, due to schedule conflicts that had kept the review from being finalized.
Vice Chancellor of Strategy and Strategic Engagement Phil Wisecup gave the likely final update on Lumina Foundation Grant. The grant had been received by NDUS to create a plan communicating how higher education in North Dakota would increase attainment toward the Board’s stated goal of 65 percent by 2025.
North Dakota Student Association President Jared Melville provided an update, noting that about 80 students recently attended the state student summit. He noted that the general assembly approved a resolution that encouraged NDUS to approve a common application, created a diversity outreach plan, had concerns about proposed changes to Title IX, and approved a resolution in support of the Board asking for its needs-based budget and corresponding increase of four percent for faculty salaries.
Council of College Faculty President Debora Dragseth noted in her report that CCF was concerned with proposed changes to Title IX; named its three legislative priorities as salary increases, opposing cuts to funding and keeping current benefits for faculty; and noted that CCF had concerns about procedures being moved internally and not public-facing might raise questions of transparency.
Board staff adviser Andy Wakeford provided an update on behalf of North Dakota State Staff Senate, noting that DSU was working on an “Above and Beyond” award for staff; NDSCS staff had conducted a food drive; NDSU staff did a focused donation drive; VCSU would be doing a clothing/supply swap; and staff throughout the system was working on other ways to keep morale up with a “Caught You” award that catches employees while they’re working and recognizes them for that work.
Among the consent agenda’s recommendations were organizational changes under the Academic and Student Affairs Committee for the Department of Computer Science at North Dakota State University to be transitioned from the College of Science and Mathematics to the College of Engineering; and for the Bachelor of Arts degrees in Economics and Computer Science at University of North Dakota to be moved from the College of Arts & Sciences respectively to the College of Business and Public Administration, and the College of Engineering and Mines. All were approved.
Among the consent agenda’s recommendations for the Budget and Finance Committee were authorizations for an $80 million capital project for UND to address deferred maintenance on the university’s core campus; an approval for Lake Region State College to transfer of $67,707.09 from operations to the capital assets; and authorization for Dickinson State University to sell the Strom Building.
The next regular Board meeting is scheduled for Feb. 26.