Fargo Forum: The State Board Of Higher Ed Would Be Just Fine It If Weren’t For That Meddlesome Legislature

Fargo Forum's Ivory Tower

A series of early departures from the State Board of Higher Education is waking a lot of North Dakotans up to the very real problems in the state’s out-of-control university system, and it’s about time. The university system has major problems.

Just weeks ago the Chancellor of of the university system, Bill Goetz, flat-out lied to the legislature’s higher ed committee about whether or not he attempted to trim the focus of a state auditor investigation into the diploma mill scandal at Dickinson State University.

When the university system’s bureaucrats can’t be trusted to tell the truth to state policy makers, we have serious problems. And Goetz’s willful deceptions are just the tip of the ice berg. But according to the Fargo Forum (which apparently can’t get the name of SBHE member Claus Lembke spelled right), the problem is that legislators are being too hard on the poor dears in the university system:

The board’s constitutional mandate of managing the state’s 11 public campuses has been made nearly impossible because of an undisguised attempt by legislative leaders and their lemming-like followers to usurp the board’s legal role. It is never easy to manage 11 vibrant and growing schools, but the Legislature, in its misguided drive to impose its flawed agenda on the system, has made the job unnecessarily difficult and frustrating. ….

Hold on! say legislators. Oversight is the Legislature’s responsibility, they say. They are responding to constituent concerns about higher ed, they say. Maybe so, but it’s the nature of the response that undermines and perverts their oversight responsibility. Oversight is one thing. Interference designed to hamstring the board and thus the obvious progress on the campuses is quite another. Several key lawmakers either don’t know the difference, or worse, they do.

Just so we’ve got this straight, one of North Dakota’s universities was making up fake students and handing out phony grades, and university officials have a pattern of trying to cover up and lie about these problems, but the problem is with legislators trying to exercise oversight.

The problem is trying to govern a $1.2 billion university system with a board of unelected bureaucrats who are, politically, accountable to nobody.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com. In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters. He writes a weekly column for several North Dakota newspapers, and also serves as a policy fellow for the North Dakota Policy Council.

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