NDUS planning for student return to campus

NDUS planning for student return to campus

The State Board of Higher Education (SBHE) spent considerable time at its most recent meeting touching on topics relative to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Part of that was in reflecting on policies and procedures that were up for some revision to aid campuses during the outbreak, and part was to look at what resuming on-campus, in-person operations would look like.

Board chair Nick Hacker said many different great things were happening among the faculty, staff and student groups on the campuses; all things that were helping the campuses maintain the ability to continue providing paths for student success. Hacker said a task force had been launched to see what the fall semester might look like. The task force was comprised of the presidents from Dickinson State University, Lake Region State College, North Dakota State University and University of North Dakota, Hacker, Board vice chair Dr. Casey Ryan, Dr. Paul Carson, Chancellor Mark Hagerott and Vice Chancellor of Strategy and Strategic Engagement James “Phil” Wisecup.

President Dean Bresciani and Carson then walked the group through what to expect. Carson noted that Gov. Doug Burgum had markedly increased the testing in the state, and N.D. remained in the top for testing per capita. He added it was reasonable to explore how to reopen the university system and restart normal campus life. Conversation followed that pointed out that while younger people had a lower risk of death from the virus, but faculty and staff ranged in age and could be at higher risk from a normal resumption of activities. Carson noted that while there were proposed vaccines in varied stages of testing, it was possible that an effective vaccine might not be available until next year or later. After extensive discussion the Board unanimously approved a motion of support for having students return to campus in the fall while maintaining a safe environment for faculty, staff and students.

During Hagerott’s reporting, the chancellor brought up the rescheduled strategic review meeting with the governor and his staff.

Wisecup provided an update to the Board on the strategic plan timeline. He noted that the first draft of the updated five-year strategic review had been written, and a systemwide survey on the topic had received more than 2,700 responses. The Board would be receiving the written narrative at its May meeting to review it in advance of adopting it as the new five-year plan in June in accordance with Higher Learning Commission accreditation requirements.

Vice Chancellor of Academic and Student Affairs Lisa Johnson brought up the annual campus tenure recommendations. The candidates had been reviewed and approved by their respective campuses. Board member Jill Louters noted that these individuals made a significant impact on their fields of research, partnered with industry, engaged in scholarly projects and created innovative products.

Board member Kathleen Neset brought Audit Committee business, including a transition plan and Fiscal Year 20201 Audit Plan. The transition plan was to help transitioning away from the chief NDUS auditor’s recent resignation after accepting a job elsewhere. Two interim co-directors were named from the existing audit staff.

Louters brought up the Student Data Privacy and Student Bill of Rights items from the Academic and Student Affairs Committee. She noted a number of program changes had occurred both with new programs and older program terminations.

Board member Don Morton brought up the Governance report, which included the Chancellor’s Performance Evaluation and amending the SBHE 2020 meeting schedule.

Ryan updated the group on the Research Committee business, noting that there was concern raised about research faculty shortages, and other topics had revolved around the proposed stabilization and innovation funds.

Board member Tim Mihalick spoke about the Budget and Finance Committee business, which ratified Hagerott’s interim authorization to the extent permitted by NDCC 15-12.1-17.6, for NDSU to increase the SBHE project authorization for a Seed Cleaning Facility at the Williston REC in Williston, ND, from $725,000 to $1,475,500.

In other Board business the group approved North Dakota State University to name NDSU Science Hall (formerly referred to as Dunbar II) as Sugihara Hall in honor of Dr. James M. Sugihara as per SBHE Policy 902.12. The Board also approved an NDUS capital project resolution that authorized the North Dakota Bonding Authority to issue notes and bonds to finance the construction of higher education projects authorized by the Sixty-sixth Legislative Assembly, and (2) authorize the execution of related documents necessary for financing the projects. Additionally, Hagerott recommended approval of a nomination for John Dhuyvetter to serve on a four-year term on the State Board of Agricultural Research and Education. The nomination was approved. He also briefly updated the Board on the NDSCS Action Plan update.

The Board reaffirmed Policies 609 (Communications Proficiency), 604.3 (Performance Evaluations: Benefited Employees), and 606.1 (Classification — Higher Education Employees),

607.0 (Application of Human Resource Policy Manual; Compensation and Benefits), and 616 (Career & Technical Program Instructor Certifications Standards). Due to COVID-19, the Board waived Policies 830.1 (Student Payment Policy — Paragraph 1 (diii-v) and Paragraph 5),

406.1 (Academic Calendars — Paragraph 3 (g)), 402.1 (Beginning Freshmen Applicants-Cert. Progr., Diploma, and Associate Degree Program — Paragraph 3 (a)), and 402.2 (First Year Applicants – Baccalaureate Programs — Paragraph 3 (a)). For information purposes, the Board discussed Policy 830.2 (Refunds – Entire procedure), Procedure 402.3 (NDUS Guidelines for Home Educated Students – Paragraph 4) and Procedure 402.9 (Admissions Procedures/New Applicants with International Coursework – Paragraph 5 (l)). The Board held the first reading of Policies 503.2 (Student Data Privacy and Security Bill of Rights), and 503.3 (Student Political Rights), held an amended first reading of Policies 611.5 (Employee Responsibility and Activities: Outside Employment or Consulting Practices; Use of Institution Property) and 1200.1 (Consolidated IT Services). First reading of HR Policies HR6 (Annual Leave), HR7 (Sick Leave), HR21 (Leave Without Pay), and HR22 (Family (FMLA) Leave) were held. Finally, the Board also held the amended first reading of Policy 340 (Contract Review), and waived its second reading.

Kaleb Dschaak provided an update on North Dakota Student Association, noting that the NDSA elected a new officer team, and had submitted three names for consideration for the student member of the Board.

Dr. Debora Dragseth reported on the Council of College Faculty, starting by giving thanks to those who had stepped up to help ensure courses continued up to the end of the semester. She added that there had been many challenges that faculty had dealt with throughout this time.

Retha Mattern updated the SBHE on the State Staff Senate, stating that there had been numerous canceled and postponed events, and many virtual meetings. She noted that two individuals had received professor emeritus status and they’d be announced soon. The annual senate meeting that was scheduled for June would likely be rescheduled. She said there was a need for support from the highest levels to ensure there wasn’t an overwhelming demand for time tracking or another accountability due to remote working.

The next scheduled Board meetings are set for May 29 and June 30.