Sad: North Dakota Senate Rubber Stamps Dalrymples Board Of Higher Ed Appointments


Yesterday the North Dakota state Senate considered, and approved, three appointments to the State Board of Higher Education by Governor Jack Dalrymple. That three nominees were being considered all at one time is, in and of itself, remarkable. It’s the result multiple members of the SBHE leaving their terms on the board early in the wake of several scandals which have rocked the university system, not the least of which was the diploma mill scandal at Dickinson State University.

So it was fitting that Senator Joe Miller (R-Park River) would stand up when the question of the appointment of Kathleen Neset came to the floor and suggest that maybe the Senate exercise a little bit of oversight for these appointments before just rubber stamping them. Unfortunately, Miller’s call for more scrutiny went unheeded as Senator Jerry Klein (R-Fessenden) responded by saying that committee members kind of sort of asked some questions but really just wanted to approve these people and move on.

The other two appointees, Don Morton and Kari Reichert, went through without any debate. All three got unanimous approval.

You really have to wonder what the point is of requiring confirmation of these appointees by the state Senate if the Senate is just going to pay lip service to the process.

If our university system ever needed more scrutiny and oversight from elected leaders, the time is now. Costs for students and taxpayers are out of control. Academic outcomes are lackluster. Graduation rates are far too low, and stagnant. One of the largest government frauds ever perpetrated in the State of North Dakota happened at Dickinson State University during the interim between legislative sessions, and time after time we see more evidence of university system officials taking a cavalier and wasteful attitude toward state tax dollars.

What’s more, the university system is in the middle of a civil war between the university presidents who don’t want to be governed by any central authority and the State Board of Higher Education which is trying in vain to implement that governance.

These are the issues Senator Miller no doubt wanted addressed. But instead we got a rubber stamp.

I’ve written often that the problem with the university system is the way it’s governed. The university system is given almost total autonomy by the state constitution. This means that elected officials such as legislators, and the governor, have very few leverage points to use when it comes to governing institutions that will, in the coming biennium, eat up nearly $1 billion worth of state tax dollars. But that independence not only means that the university system lacks sufficient accountability to the taxpayers, it also means our elected leaders get to punt on higher education problems.

The independence means they don’t have to take responsibility. And for the most part they don’t, as the video above shows.

Rob Port is the editor of 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.

Related posts

  • spud

    So you said they all were approved unanimously. So Miller asks a question and got shot down yet voted unanimously for all three anyway. Why bother to attempt to ask a ? if your still going to in the end approve that person?. Why should Miller get any credit for basically going along with the rubber-stamp program. Just saw nasty accident on I-29 by mile marker 184 in fact before that marker and traffic backed up heading north almost to exit 180. Be careful out there use common sense from what I saw it would be a miracle if no fatalities happened here. To all those who volunteer on ambulances and fire department’s “Thank You”.

    • The Whistler

      I heard there was a bad accident up there. There was one south of GF too.

  • whowon

    So…does this mean there is no chance of a bill coming up to eliminate the board?

    • Rob

      I wouldn’t say that, but there doesn’t seem to be a lot of will among legislators to take on the university system either.

  • Enough with the Corruption

    Jerry Klein and the rest of these higher ed apoligists in the legislature are pathetic. They clearly do not care about fixing problems nor do they care about the public they serve. All they want is to shove higher ed’s problems under the rug and continue business as usual. Worthless pretend public servants.

  • The Whistler

    So what you’re saying is that there is no oversight. The governor has a lackey ask the heads of the Universities who they’d like and appoints them.

  • Ray Seltz

    Surprised they gave Morton a pass. They must have latched on to his pedigree and ignored the blue political colors.

    • Rob

      I thought Morton’s comments about creating a separate, lower academic standard for student athletes might have come up.

      But, again, most of the legislators don’t seem interested in exercising oversight.

  • ND Observer

    Kathleen Neset of Tioga is a hard nosed business woman who is independent of all North Dakota colleges as a graduate of Brown Univ. The weak link is Kari Reichert of Bismarck, and Don Morton can be suspect by being a cheerleader of NDSU. Sen. Joe Miller is not smart enough to question the right board member. But that is no doubt why he voted with the rest of the Senators. The question was just posturing and smoke, not substance.

  • Anti-NCAA

    Because, Rob, most of our senators are looking for those ‘fun’ bills where they get to name the state bug, fish, official drink, etc. and look good in front of the camera. You mean they have to see what traits a nominee has?? Really?? That would mean they have to employ some brain cells.

    Why wait for some scandal to hit the media. You could really say that the previous scandals are partially the result of our senate ALLOWING prior candidates to pass through with rubber stamping and not finding out what the candidates’ methodology of being on a board meant and impact the citizenry of ND.

  • Opinion8ed

    They did not want to miss out on next years Christmas Party and all the hobnobbing