Is The Board Of Higher Education Trying To Exclude Legislative Leadership From NCAA Meeting?

Update: Looks like the meeting has now been moved to Bismarck. Glad to see the SBHE got their act together.

There’s been a show down of sorts this legislative session between the Republican-lead legislature and the State Board of Higher Education. From the battle over the Fighting Sioux nickname to battles over funding (featuring antics like NDSU President Dean Brescani shutting down his university’s child development due, he claimed, to a lack of funding on the same day he was testifying for more funding before the legislature), the relationship between the legislature and the university system has been tense.

Enter into that a meeting set up by the State Board of Higher Education to talk with the NCAA in the wake of the state legislature voting to order the SBHE to keep the Fighting Sioux nickname. According to the higher ed apologists at the Grand Forks Herald, SBHE member Grant Shaft has said that he wants to include legislative leadership in the meeting with the NCAA and come out of that meeting with a final solution for the nickname. Shaft says that they’re working with the NCAA on scheduling it.

But according to interviews with legislative leadership, the meeting date has already been scheduled to take place in Grand Forks on a date they can’t attend because the legislature will still be in session.

Bismarck, ND – UND and NCAA officials have set a meeting date to discuss UND’s Fighting Sioux logo, but despite comments from higher education officials it doesn’t appear to have been scheduled to encourage involvement from legislators.

While State Board of Higher Education President Grant Shaft has stated that he would like to see everyone including legislative leaders come to the table for that discussion, that will difficult given the date that was set, April 22, 2011.

House Majority Leader Al Carlson said that he will not be able to attend the meeting if it is held in Grand Forks, as currently scheduled, since the legislature will still be in session. Senate Majority Leader Bob Stenehjem said the same thing.

“It’s worthless to have a meeting if we are not involved,” said Carlson. “We are the ones who passed the legislation.”

“I agree that we should be there, and I could take an hour or two to meet, but I certainly couldn’t leave all day to go up to Grand Forks, particularly at this point in the session,” said Stenehjem.

Whatever you may feel about the nickname, if there’s going to be a meeting with the NCAA about this issue legislative leadership should be involved. Especially when the university system’s leadership has said they want the legislators involved.

This sort of back-handed dealing, unfortunately, is all too typical of our university system which is politically unaccountable to anyone in the state. Which is why HCR3046, which has already cleared the state House, should be passed by the state Senate so that this state’s voters can decide whether or not the SBHE should continue to be its own politically unaccountable bureaucracy or if it should be controlled by someone who is actually elected of the people.

On a related note, maybe UND or NDSU could send one of their private airplanes to Bismarck to shuttle the legislators. After all, both universities (despite pleading poverty on their budgets) have spent tens of thousands of dollars on flights back and forth to the legislative session to lobby.

What’s a few thousand more of our tax dollars?

Rob Port

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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