Grant Shaft Puts His Finger On North Dakota’s Higher Education Problem
Below is an op/ed State Board of Higher Education President Grant Shaft is circulating to the state’s policy makers.
In it, Shaft runs the gamut of the usual fear-mongering we’ve come to expect from the folks at the university system. Time and again this fear mongering has turned out to be something less than accurate (the most recent being UND Athletic Director Brian Faison’s comments about the Big Sky conference’s consternation over the controversy being undermined by another AD from the conference), but that’s their schtick and apparently they’re sticking to it.
But setting aside Shaft’s de rigeur assertion that nickname supporters hate UND’s athletes and students, etc., etc., I thought this sentence was pretty interesting:
“The State Board of Higher Education was constitutionally established in 1938 to remove the oversight of the state’s universities and colleges from the political process and place them under the control of an appointed Board of Higher Education.”
The key phrase there is “remove…from the political process.” The political process is, in essence, democracy. The political process is how we govern. What Shaft is saying, subtly, is that the Board of Higher Education is beyond the reach of the democratic process. They are above the process. They answer, for the length of their terms, to nobody.
This, my friends, is the root of the problem with higher education in North Dakota. From out-of-control spending to the enrollment fraud at Dickinson State University to the abuse of taxpayer funds throughout the system, the reason why North Dakota’s university system is a quagmire of waste and abuse is because the board running has been removed from the political process.
However you may feel about the Fighting Sioux issue – and I understand that there are strong opinions on both sides – the State Board of Higher Education must be inserted back into the political process.
Here’s Shaft’s op/ed:
The State Board of Higher Education was constitutionally established in 1938 to remove the oversight of the state’s universities and colleges from the political process and place them under the control of an appointed Board of Higher Education. The process of appropriating funds to operate the institutions remained with the legislature. Although this constitutionally established governance of higher education has resulted in periodic friction between the Board and the legislative and executive branches, it has produced a state university system that is recognized as one of the finest in the United States when compared to national metrics including efficient use of taxpayer dollars, affordability, access, student satisfaction, graduate satisfaction, workforce training, employers satisfaction, graduation/retention rates or student’s performance on national exams.
The Board of Higher Education is appointed by the Governor to set governance and academic policy for North Dakota’s 11 institutions. Once appointed, Board members take an oath to uphold the state constitution. Just as a governor, legislator or other state official swears to follow the constitution in exercising their office, Board members are sworn to act in the best interest of our universities and colleges. Regarding the Fighting Sioux issue, our oath requires us to act in the best interest of UND, its athletic program and its student athletes. This means it is our duty as the Board of Higher Education to challenge the constitutionality of a law that damages UND, even if the result of such a challenge may negate a statewide vote.
Those who have carefully examined the arguments presented by both sides of the issue and specifically the NCAA sanctions and what effect they have and will have on UND’s student athletes have concluded that the name and logo must be retired. This group now includes the Governor, a significant majority of the legislature, the attorney general, the Board of Higher Education, UND administration, the UND athletic department and all UND coaches, the UND alumni association, faculty, staff and students. In the coming months, you will hear these groups outline the reasons they believe it is necessary to retire the name and logo. Those who truly support UND, both its academics and its athletics, will listen carefully to these voices and measure them against those who have may have placed their affection for a beloved nickname and logo ahead of the institution itself and its student athletes.Tags: brian faison, fighting soux, Grant Shaft, North Dakota News, state board of higher education, University of North Dakota