Earlier today news broke that North Dakota State Board of Higher Education member Claus Lembke was stepping down a year early in his four-year term on the board (which is up in July of 2013). This afternoon I got the opportunity to interview Lembke about his decision:
Lembke said that part of his decision laid with the fact that not enough good news about higher education in North Dakota had been reported, and that all the focus was on the negative story. He also said that his service on the board was taking up too much of his time, and he had to decide between finishing his term or losing his job (he’s a lobbyist).
I asked Lembke if there were any reforms that would make the board easier for people like him to serve on, and I specifically asked him about reforms that would end the independence of the board, but he wasn’t clear on whether or not those sort of reforms would help or hurt.
Given what the university system has been through over the last several years I can understand Lembke’s frustrations. When he was first appointed three years ago he told the legislature that the SBHE wasn’t going to be a “rubber stamp” for the higher education interests in the state any more, but that hasn’t really come true. And it’s hard to imagine how higher education could get any more adoring coverage from the North Dakota media. In my experience the state’s media’s outlets are eager to play cheerleader for higher ed, while poo-pooing criticism.
Regardless, actions speak louder than words, and Lembke leaving his position a year early after former SBHE President Jon Backes and current member Mike Haugen choosing to leave after just one term illustrates that there are major problems in higher education.