Board talks strategy at annual meeting

Board talks strategy at annual meeting

The State Board of Higher Education reviewed its strategic planning process during its annual meeting this week, making post-pandemic adjustments to the plan and how the North Dakota University System would move forward.

Chair Nick Hacker, Chancellor Mark Hagerott and Vice Chancellor of Strategy and Strategic Engagement Jerry Rostad updated the Board on the strategic plan and any potential changes to it. Three main points were reviewed, including Policy 100.4 (Mission and Vision), Policy 100.5 (Beliefs and Core Values), and metrics that were related to the Board’s five current strategic goals.

The Board ultimately moved to send the policies and metrics to the Governance and Research Committee for review, after minor modifications had been recommended during the previous day’s strategic retreat. Final review of the policies and metrics would take place at the Board’s June meeting.

Vice Chancellor of Administrative Affairs and Chief Financial Officer Tammy Dolan briefed the Board on 2021-23 Biennial Budget Guidelines. That included salary scales, tuition, and fees. Dolan noted that regionally, the system’s four-year universities were slightly below regional counterparts, while two year community colleges and the research universities were slightly above regional averages.

North Dakota State College of Science President John Richman spoke to the Board on the NDSCS Career Academy Lease agreement. Legal Counsel Eric Olson noted the topic had started in 2017 with a 5-3 vote approving NDSCS move forward without funds appropriated by the university system. At that time, legal review noted that the project was not a capital project as state law defined them. Olson noted that as proposed, the construction didn’t meet the legal definition of capital project, because although it was a $20 million project, it was being undertaken by NDSCS’s private foundation.

Hacker said other considerations had made the issue murky, such as who would ultimately own the building: NDSCS, the NDSCS foundation, or the local school district. Chancellor Mark Hagerott said that liability and legal issues had set precedent to be cautious, as there had been two times in the university system where private foundations faced insolvency and had to be helped through the legal risk by public funding. Board member Kathleen Neset noted that if the project moved forward under the foundation, the Board would have no oversight of the career academy being proposed. She added that funds approved by the legislature through the Department of Career and Technical Education could not be applied to a building owned by a private foundation.

Richman noted that from 2017 forward, planning years and his own goals had been presented to the Board. He noted that 13 of those goals were directly related to the creation of the career academy. Richman noted that by approving those goals, the Board and the Chancellor had approved forward motion on the project. With that perception, Richman added that he met with partners and visited numerous potential sites with the workforce academy team. He said at the end of the day, the proven model would be a structure owned by the private foundation and operated by the college.

Ultimately, Board member Tim Mihalick motioned to approve the lease as presented. Student member to the Board Erica Solberg seconded. Hacker noted that commitment from the four school districts in Fargo would assure success of the project in the future. A 5-3 vote ultimately approved the lease as presented.

Next, the Board entered executive session to receive a Security/Penetration Test briefing from Vice Chancellor for Information Technology and Chief Information Officer Darin R. King and to address other matters related to NDUS cybersecurity and other security plans. After the session the Board reconvened and directed all institutions to get on board with the implementation of the endpoint protection software.


Regular business

Board member Kathleen Neset brought forward the Audit Committee agenda, which included the purpose and mission for Internal Audit. She noted that policies had been reviewed and the committee heard reports from the compliance officer and the chief audit officer.

Board vice chair Dr. Casey Ryan presented the Research and Governance Committee agenda, including the chancellor’s performance process and timeline, and the new Board member orientation.

Board member Tim Mihalick brought forward the Budget and Finance Committee agenda, which included authorizing Dickinson State University to proceed with fundraising for a new athletic complex; authorization of the DSU Tuition Model Factor change request; and authorization for University of North Dakota to sell 421 Princeton Street and two adjacent vacant lots.

Jill Louters, Ed.D., brought forward the Academic and Student Affairs Committee agenda, including review of ten program changes across the system.

Dolan provided a final legislative update to the Board, touching on high points of legislation that had impacted higher education in the state. Hacker noted that the needs-based budget had come through even though it had been crafted in uncertain times at the beginning of the pandemic. He noted that Board members testifying on the topics of dual credit and governance issues had helped those topics move forward more favorably for the system. More than 200 bills had been tracked through the session regarding higher education.

The Board also heard an update on Senate Bill 2030, which had ultimately receiving a partial veto by Governor Doug Burgum. After that action, Hacker and Hagerott had requested an opinion from the attorney general’s office on the legal impacts of the new law.

Hagerott spoke briefly about the possible opportunities and challenges related to President Joe Biden’s Higher Education Initiative. This included the potential for hundreds of billions of dollars for higher education, whether it was the American Promise Act, the American Families Act, or the Endless Frontier Act. One challenge that could occur would be for regional universities suffering declined enrollment if community colleges were made free for everyone.

Student Board member Erica Solberg provided an update from North Dakota Student Association. She noted that the update was light since classes were over for the summer, but NDSA was working on an updated code of conduct, and a diversity and inclusion policy.

Faculty Advisor to the Board Elizabeth Legerski, Ph.D., provided an update from the Council of College Faculty, which included an update on the contract with Burning Glass, discussion on legislative items, and a thank you for everyone who helped advocate on helpful legislation.

Staff Advisor to the Board Retha Mattern provided an update for Staff Senate, including campus election of officers, the upcoming in-person annual meeting, and answering questions about how university system staff would be impacted by new legislation regarding public employees.

The Board also held the first readings of Policies 401.1 (Academic Freedom); 503.1 (Student Free Speech); 503.3 (Student Political Rights); 520 (Title IX); 308.3 (Political Activities); and 508 (Student Grant, Scholarship and Loan Repayment). All were approved. In other business, nominations for Chair and Vice Chair were made, with Ryan and Louters being named to the respective positions unanimously.

The next meeting is scheduled for June 29 at Minot State University.