Video: SBHE Member Claus Lembke Says Not Enough Good Things Are Said About Higher Ed


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.

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.

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  • borborygmi

    SHOCKER:  Sounds like Rob complaining about the lack of nice things to say about the oil patch

    • Rob

      My complaint isn’t that there aren’t enough nice things being said about the oil patch. My complaint is that the bad things they’re reporting are exaggerated or not very accurate.

      • Robertfrost

        Just like you do with the higher ed system.  Ain’t we all content.

  • ndoldman

    looks like SBHE now has a skape goat, how long before the pile on?

    • RCND

      I hope not. Claus was about the only good guy on the board. I don’t agree with his comments on the video about the “good the SBHE has done”… they are taking credit for many other factors which don’t necessarily tie back to the NDUS (like perhaps the ND work ethic which is instilled by the upbringing and not necessarily the college), but he did stand against the board … sometimes alone… on issues that have been contentious for them. 

      I so wish it was Shaft who resigned

      • Rob

        Resignations won’t fix anything. We need to reform the way higher Ed is governed.

      • ndoldman

        it just seems that when someone leaves in during a turmoil that blame follows the one that can’t defend themselves hope he left with his documentations, if he was the good guy and smart guy.

  • VocalYokel

    “…Not Enough Good Things Are Said About Higher Ed”

    Not enough good things are said about pedophiles either…

    Oh wait!
    Here’s one…they drive slow by Grade Schools.

  • Guest

    Here is your chance to bring reform to the system, put your name in to replace Lembke.

    • oh_fishsticks

      I agree! Rob should put his name in!

    • Ndconservative2011

      Rob would be great, but he does not meet the qualifications which include the following:
      Say yes every time to all excessive spending. 
      Cover up all of the cheating and lying at Dickinson State. 
      Make sure that the new chancellor is not properly vetted and maybe has one one or two lawsuits against him at his last post. 
      Pucker up every time the presidents of the colleges come to Bismarck for draconian tuition increases.
      He would need to keep his mouth shut at all times and agree with Grant Shaft’s lies.  Then he would need to resign after crying that the pressure is too great from a public that demands to know why the hell the SBHE has run amuck.

    • Rob

      That would make for some interesting live blog sessions… ;-)

      Actually, the resulting furor if I were even nominated would be entertaining enough.

  • Sunil Thakur

    yes Rob should put his name in 

  • Robertfrost

    I think they are looking for someone that wants a university system, not someone that would close down every school but two.  Progress in thought, not regress, is a quality that the state would like, and that isn’t found by many here.

    • RCND

      How is operating 13 schools, many offering the same programs, an efficient way to run a system?

      • Robertfrost

        How about operating two and having small-town ND kids sit in classes of 400 students.  Wonderful access to higher ed in ND.  There’s a reason why the framers wrote it the way they did, and why the state chose not to take the schools out of that arrangement.

        • Rob

          At some point, we’re going to have to recognize that it isn’t the 19th century any more, and there’s no need for all these campuses. Times change, and there’s a reason why the constitution can be amended. We have a higher education bubble exactly because of the attitude you espouse.

        • Conservative_Egghead

          Let’s be honest here. The 1889 Constitutional Convention didn’t put all of those schools in the Constitution because of a desire for access. They did it to buy votes for passage of the Constitution. Every large town got at least one institution, including the mental hospital in Jamestown, the prison in Bismarck, and the developmental school in Grafton (which has been obsolete for at least 30 years, but good luck trying to shut it down). This was pure and simple horse trading.

      • Clamb

        It’s called access

  • spud

    Priorities need to be changed.  These schools are all offering the same programs especially education field.  UND is paying there head coach $300,000 and we all know he can’t win the big one.  $300,000 to be head coach of the hockey team not a bad gig especially when fan’s of other teams refer to you as “Chokestol”.  Priorities though.

    • ec99

      Hakstol is the equivalent of football and basketball coaches at other universities.  While people lambaste adiminstrator and faculty salaries, he gets a pass.  But then, he contributes so much to betterment of the world.