While guest hosting for Scott Hennen today we were discussing the topic of the Fighting Sioux nickname controversy, and I pointed out that effort by many in the higher education community in this state to be rid of the nickname illustrates just how out of control, unaccountable and out of touch with the taxpayers they are.
North Dakota Higher Education Board Member Mike Haugen was apparently listening and called in, and he wasn’t happy with my comments. What ensued was, I think, a rather interesting conversation that revealed a lot about the attitude the folks in charge of higher education have in so far as their performance and their accountability to the taxpayers.
Here’s the audio of the discussion:
I’ve done a lot of guest hosting for Scott, and I’m not sure I’ve ever done anything on his show that has gotten as much feedback as this comment did, and not one email or Facebook message or Twitter reply was complimentary of Haugen or the job the State Board of Higher Education is doing.
When I asked Haugen if he and his fellow board members realized that they and the institutions they manage are funded by the taxpayers, he tried to discount how much those universities get from the taxpayers. When I pointed out that he and his fellow higher education bureaucrats throw a collective hissy fit when the legislature even tries to slow down the growth of taxpayer expenditures on their budgets, he scoffed and said that the spending increases were necessary to pay the heating bills.
I pointed out that since the 2003 – 2005 legislative session higher education spending has gone up 63% and tuition revenues have gone up 36% he accused me of making up numbers (it’s worth noting that those growth numbers come from the state government).
He said that North Dakotans get a lot of bang for the buck for the money they put into higher education. I pointed out that nearly 80% of the students who enroll and NDSU and UND don’t graduate, that 60% of incoming freshman at those universities aren’t from North Dakota and that over 60% of the just over 20% of students who ultimately do graduate from them leave the state he accused me of making up facts.
When I tried to ask him what the actual graduation rates were, he either didn’t know or didn’t want to admit that I actually did have my facts straight.
The most common response I got from listeners who heard this live was that they were shocked at how arrogant Haugen was. I would submit that this attitude permeates North Dakota’s higher education system. These people think they’re building an empire, and anyone who questions what they’re doing (up to and including the taxpayers footing the bill) are the enemy.
One interesting note: Haugen admits that the university system has no fewer than 17 people at the legislative session lobbying. Now, Haugen said that these people aren’t lobbyists, and while it’s true that under the law they are exempted from having to register as lobbyists because they’re working for the state, what they’re doing is absolutely lobbying.
So not only are we taxpayers footing the bill for these seventeen people, are also footing the bill for all the new spending they’re lobbying for.
Plus, now that the Board of Higher Education has come out against the Fighting Sioux nickname you can bet they’re lobbying against that legislation.