Question of the Week: What Would Your Higher Ed Governance System Look Like?


In last weeks inaugural question of the week, we asked if the Legislature will consider allowing the electorate to decide if it is time for a change to governance for the North Dakota University System (NDUS). As if on que, yet another piece of concerning news broke this past week involving the “re-purposing” of office space in a new $11 million Information Technology building on the campus of the University of North Dakota (UND).

This floor plan change would allow for a 2,300 square foot office suite for Chancellor Dr. Hamid Shirvani, seemingly so he will be able to spend more time on the east side of the state near the NDUS’s two research colleges; UND and North Dakota State University (NDSU). UND President Robert O. Kelley did not sign off on the change order, but he was overruled by the State Board of Higher Education (SBHE).

This change was in defiance to the legislative intent for this building. Even those legislators who traditionally have stood by the NDUS are having difficulty defending this latest move. This issue was one of many Rob has covered at length on SAB, and has renewed the call for an end to the independence of the NDUS in the State Constitution.

As was discussed in last week’s column, such a change would require the voters decide to amend the State Constitution to remove this independence. February 26th is the deadline for constitutional amendments to be introduced, and while that may seem like it is a ways off, that really is not a lot of time to draft such a resolution into a form that depicts the governance method the NDUS should go to. This would, after all, be a significant change to the State Constitution. Such a change would also need ensure accountability is returned to the NDUS while balancing concerns (real or perceived) for not politicizing an already political university system. Last, the change needs to be one the electorate can understand when casting their vote.

That theme brings us to our SAB Question of the Week:

With conditions now more than ripe to justify change to Higher Education governance in North Dakota, if you were drafting such an amendment to the State Constitution; what would your new NDUS governance system look like, and why?



LegitSlater is a contributor who focuses on features primarily pertaining to state and local government as well as political parties, but has been known to dabble in other areas. LegitSlater has also been known to pinch hit for Rob when he is out and about in his worldly travels, or attending the occasional Yankees-Twins series. LegitSlater's numerous awards include the personal satisfaction received from informing the vast readership of SAB, spurring respectful debate, and hunting the trophy sacred cows which have been otherwise deemed off limits by the traditional media, elected officials, and the political parties.

Related posts

  • RCND

    If it was completely up to me, I would like to see the governance changed to one that looks something like this. I saw this floating around a while back and thought it would be a good solution:

    1. Replace the SBHE with an elected Commissioner of Higher Education, or one appointed by the Governor (who can also remove them for cause)

    2. The Commissioner would have broad authority to manage the ND university system, and all institutions of higher education, including hiring and firing presidents, submitting (and justifying in testimony) the NDUS budget for consideration by the Legislature, who shall exercise independent authority and control of appropriations for the university system.

    3. The Commissioner would be for a term of 6 years, with a maximum of 2 consecutive terms.

    4. The Commissioner is free to hire a deputy, or other assistance as authorized by by the Legislature. This deputy can be/ should be the person in the office with a degree of background in higher ed

    5. The Commissioner would be removable as any other elected or appointed official.

    The crux of higher ed issues really can be traced back to a board who really can’t be fired, at least very easily. That same board selects the Chancellor and presidents of our institutions. Changing that board is where overall change in the NDUS needs to start. Making it more accountable will better ensure the change happens

    • Tim Heise

      Sounds good to me except we should never require (I understand you stated ‘should”) that they have background/education in higher ed. Look at Mitch Daniels.

      • RCND

        I would tend to agree that entrusting educrats to continue to run the very system they screwed up in the first place is not the best idea. If this were ever submitted for consideration without that deputy being an educrat I could live with it

  • John_Wayne_American

    I’d dump the Higher Ed Board, and replace it an elected commission like the tax commissioner, State treasurer, Auditor DPI or Secretary of State. Maybe a board of 3, like the Public Service Commission. Yes I like the 3 member board better.

    My Board of Higher Ed would be elected on 6 year terms on every 2 year elections like the PSC. I’d grant the Commission of Higher ed a staff of folks whose authority to pull unannounced audits for both fiscal and educational accountability.

    I want those College presidents looking over their shoulders 24/7 if they don’t like it, the colleges can hire someone who can live with the oversight.

    Look at the battle for The long forgotten position of DPI, nobody could spell DPI until this year when the Republicans finally ran and electable candidate. Its time the voters look at whoevers running Higher Ed in the same way.

    I’d vote for the candidate that ran on a platform of streamlining, and redundancy reductions.

  • ec99

    First, you have to ask what the priorities are. If revenue and sports, do nothing; the status quo already sees to them. If you want a return to education, you have to tear the whole thing down, establish a different mindset, and go from there.

  • DougSchulz

    I would like to comment on how one aspect of the NDUS system might be improved. As part of a new plan, I suggest that the management NDUS Research and Technology Transfer activities (including all incubator-based activities) be transferred to a Research and Technology (R&T) board comprising representatives from the following offices: ND Governor’s Office; the US House and Senate; the ND House and Senate; and, the NDUS Chancellor’s Office (including NDUS Presidents). The R&T enterprise would ensure long-term benefits with 3% of all royalties generated with NDUS licensed IP paid directly to each ND citizen on an annual basis. This royalty stream would include some percentage of the operating expenses “generated” by university/college-related nonprofits such as 501(c)3s, 501(c)4s.

    The board would oversee the activities of a (to be formed) NDUS Legal Team where intellectual property (IP) negotiations would be centralized. Such an approach allows hiring specialized staff that maintain expertise in patent law and high-tech licensing. At present, the university counsel at each NDUS site focus on a multitude of interests at their respective institutions and are motivated by their presidents who may, or may not, have the ND citizen’s best interests in their minds.

    Duties and responsibilities of this team would encompass the development of a “standard” approach to forging partnerships between the public and private sectors as well as ensuring that all NDUS technologies are given equitable consideration as it
    ultimately relates to the benefit of the citizens of ND. Information would be communicated through citizen-level descriptions of the technologies being supported with a discussion of the costs, benefits, GO/NO GO decision points and timeline so that expectations can be set. Also, the R&T board would produce an Annual Report on NDUS Research and Technology that would monitor performance that would justify previous support and promote buy-in for future endeavors. This information would include budget, expense, revenue reports and forecasts.

    The board would also serve as the Lead Administrator for the EPSCoR Research Infrastructure Improvement (RII) Award. The R&T board could provide a less biased perspective of the strengths of the NDUS involved with research. This is especially important given the state-match to the RII Award in years past.

  • GoalpostsBeyondTheIvoryTower

    Abolish the SBHE and individual universities as institutions. Replace the system with a single organization, The North Dakota University.

    NDU is overseen directly by its internal University Senate and appointed member-officers thereof, answerable to the Superintendent of Public Instruction, and funded only upon individual student academic and employment success.

    Savings and consistency will be achieved by a single rate of tuition and eliminating high-maintenance, low return campuses. Also, privatize all campus “cost centers” and make them compete with independent contractors to serve campus facility and maintenance needs.

    Incentivize administrators to focus on student success: Salaries of NDU administrators and staff will be increased only if the average earnings of recent graduates also improves. Teaching Lecturers earn salary plus performance incentives based on student outcomes.

    Divorce mandatory teaching from Research Professors, and mandatory research from Teaching Lecturers. Research Professors must pay their lab’s salary and benefits from earned research grant money. Eliminate tenure. Kick out ineffective labs periodically through peer oversight.

  • Dream world

    I would eliminate the SBHE & Chancellor and the university system office. I would eliminate 9 individual schools and the redundant administrations at every school and keep only UND and NDSU. I would then convert all the other campuses into satellite campuses of UND and NDSU. I would create one administration (1 president with a couple vice presidents that comprise a central office) to oversee the 2 schools and their campuses scattered around the state. This administration would report to a commission that is elected directly by the people (just like a local school board) that is fairly representative of the state’s regions. The higher ed commissioners would have term limits.