Board approves biennial budget request

Board approves biennial budget request

Among the larger items covered by the State Board of Higher Education at its annual meeting were discussion and approval of its 2021-2023 budget and its five-year strategic plan. The proposed budget had been finely tuned following Gov. Burgum’s recommendation for cuts amid a global pandemic and recession.

Vice Chancellor of Administrative Affairs/Chief Financial Officer Tammy Dolan presented the 2021-2023 budget request. The request was split into an Operational Budget and a Capital Budget. Dolan began by noting that general fund appropriations were forecast to be $574 million, lower than the past five bienniums due to a forecast cut of 10 percent. By comparison, the 2019-2021 general appropriation was $638 million.

Dolan noted that for that biennium, North Dakota University System had submitted a needs-based budget and would likely do that again and walked the Board through comparisons between budget guidelines for a 10 percent cut and a needs-based budget. She said the needs-based budget request was a 1.6 percent increase from the current base funding level. After brief discussion, the Board voted unanimously to approve both the Operational and Capital Budget requests.

Additionally, State Forester Tom Clays presented the Forest Service budget request, Vice President for Agricultural Affairs Greg Lardy presented the NDSU Research & Extension Service budget request, and Director Denver Tolliver presented the Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute request. Each of these was considered pass-through budgets that come through the Board due to legislative requirement. All were ultimately approved.

Dr. Joshua Wynne provided an update on the NDUS Smart Restart Task Force, noting that the three working groups that comprised the task force had met multiple times. He said the structure had worked well and allowed for “good cross-fertilization of ideas.” The next proposal the task force would be considering would be the back-to-school testing. That would include all faculty, staff and students when campuses reopened.

Wynne noted that there would predictably be individuals who were coming back to campuses from near and far who had COVID-19, even if they were asymptomatic. He added that other challenges existed, such as those for student athletes who in the course of their activities could not wear masks and would be interacting more closely with other student athletes. He noted that it would be ideal for widespread and at-home testing to be available several days or a week ahead of Fall semester to give the tests time to process and any students with confirmed cases quarantined.

Board Chair Nick Hacker offered gratitude to Wynne for his time as Interim President of University of North Dakota, while at the same time continuing to be Dean of the School of Medicine and Health Sciences before being named as the medical strategist for the Dept. of Health.

Chancellor Mark Hagerott and Vice Chancellor of Strategy and Strategic Engagement James “Phil” Wisecup provided an update on the Board’s 2020-2025 Strategic Plan. The Strategic Engagement Team had conducted campus visits and a systemwide survey to update the plan, which was due for updating as the previous five-year plan expired June 30. The Strategic Review, as presented, included a COVID-19 addendum to forecast additional unknowns and challenges beyond the typical planning process. The Board would be taking up the approval of the Strategic Plan at its annual retreat in September.


Policies, reports

Board member Jill Louters brought forward the Academic and Student Affairs committee business, including policy waivers for the upcoming school year. Those waivers were for paragraphs 3a and 3b of Policy 402.1 (First-Year Applicants – Certificate, Diploma, and Associate Programs) and paragraph 1 of Policy 402.1.1 (Standardized Test Scores). Both were approved. Additionally, Student Member of the Board Kaleb Dschaak brought up two topics under that committee agenda: briefly mentioning E-Sports and more lengthy comments regarding Internships. Incoming Student Member of the Board Erica Solberg provided her own experience with internships as well.

Board member Tim Mihalick brought forward the Budget and Finance committee recommendations, including an interim authorization for Dickinson State University to proceed with renovation of Pulver Hall; a requested tuition model change at Minot State University; salary ranges for vice chancellors and senior officers; budget authorization for University of North Dakota to proceed with construction on Nistler Hall and the Nistler College of Business and Public Administration; and authorization for UND to proceed with demolition of Memorial Stadium. Mihalick also brought up an update for relief funds related to COVID-19, which amounted to $44 million from the state.

Board member Kathleen Neset brought forward the Audit committee agenda, which included the

2020-2021 Compliance Program Areas of Focus, the Audit Plan, the Internal Audit and Compliance 2021-23 Budgets, and the Compliance and Internal Audit Independence confirmations. Neset spoke about the audits that had been conducted on varying institutions within the NDUS. She added that during the audits, the interim co-directors of internal audit spoke on the creation of a process to track ongoing audits at 3-, 6-, 9- and 12-month cycles.

Board member Dr. Casey Ryan brought forward the Governance and Research committee recommendation, which centered on renaming it as the Research and Governance committee. He spoke about research proposals that would help diversify the state’s economy beyond agriculture and energy.

Board member Don Morton brought back up the idea of granting tenure for presidents. This had come up in the past but had been tabled pending further research by the Governance committee. He listed pros and cons of the tenure process and noted that it was something that all presidents should have, whether or not they had been granted tenure previously from a tenure-track position or contract arrangement. Discussion commenced, with input from other Board members on advantages and disadvantages to granting all presidents tenure. Ultimately the Board decided to extend the conversation on the topic through future committee meetings but took no action.

Director of Financial Aid Brenda Zastoupil provided a report on the 2020 Skilled Workforce Scholarship Skilled Workforce Loan Repayment program. She said the report was required by statute to be provided as the program had been legislatively mandated. Zastoupil highlighted some aspects of the report, including the 75 high impact careers that were identified by the program, and the scholarships that had been awarded so far. She said five individuals had qualified for loan repayment under the program. The Board unanimously accepted the report.

Interim Co-Director of Internal Audit Krista Lambrecht brought up the Board’s self-evaluation. She noted that recent self-evals had been done via interviews with Board members, and findings were offered in a report to the Board. She noted that room for improvement existed in regard to governance structure and committee sizes.

Legal Counsel Eric Olson brought forward the first reading of ten amended policies related to the new SBHE Policy 520 (Title IX). They were: 308.1 (Officer and Employee Code of Conduct);

308.2 (Required Reports of Violations; Reprisal or Retaliation Prohibited); 514 (Due Process Requirements for Student Conduct That May Result in Suspension or Expulsion); 603.1 (Harassment and Discrimination); 605.3 (Nonrenewal, Termination or Dismissal of Faculty); 605.4 (Hearings and Appeals); 608.2 (NDUS Employees – Non-renewal and Dismissals); HR 25 (Job Discipline-Dismissal0; HR 27 (Appeal Procedures); and HR 28 (Grievance Procedures). All were approved. Olson had also brought forward the first and second reading of Policy 601.2 (Acting Chief Executive Officer), which created lines of succession for campus leadership in the case of emerging times of change.

The Board also had entered into executive session to discuss the renewals and contract terms for the presidents. Following the executive session, the Board renewed the presidential contracts.

Dschaak provided an update on the North Dakota Student Administration, including internships, open educational resources, and more.

Faculty Adviser to the Board Dr. Debora Dragseth gave an update on the Council of College Faculty, including its next meeting on July 7, recent elections and the summer retreat.

Staff Adviser to the Board Retha Mattern provided an update on the State Staff Senate, including the election of officers, recognition programs for staff throughout campuses, and response to COVID moving forward as the campuses move toward reopening.

This was the last meeting for each Dschaak and Dragseth. They will be succeeded by Emily Solberg and Dr. Elizabeth Legerski respectively. Dschaak, Dragseth and Morton were all given recognition plaques for their service to the Board. It was also the final meeting for Wisecup, who was retiring.

Retiring Bismarck State College President Larry Skogen was as well honored with Emeritus status for his 13 years of service as a member of leadership, both as BSC President and Interim Chancellor.

The next Board meetings are scheduled for July 23 and August 27 via Teams Live, with the annual Board Retreat having been postponed until September 23.