Board hears update on goals, COVID

Board hears update on goals, COVID

The State Board of Higher Education heard and approved dozens of goals for the chancellor and campus presidents at its recent meeting, held at North Dakota State College of Science.

NDSCS President John Richman welcomed the Board to the Wahpeton campus, noting that it was the second longest operating public college in the state, having continuously operated for 119 years. Vice President for Student Affairs Jane Vangsness Frisch, Ph.D., provided an update to the Board on the school’s academic options and how the program content had become so responsive. Vangsness Frisch spoke about attainment, job placement, economic health and affordability initiatives.

Chancellor Mark Hagerott presented his goals for the upcoming year. He touched on major events that the system had dealt with in the past year, including the pandemic and legislative session. He noted that key priorities to be mindful of in the future would include Math Pathways, Electronic Curriculum and Open Resource (ECOR), potential salary compression across the system and necessary cost of living adjustments. Board Chair Dr. Casey Ryan suggested that an amendment to the goals could be offered that would have the chancellor routinely meet with Board members to keep them all appraised of current events.

University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences Dean Dr. Joshua Wynne provided an update on COVID-19, with a focus on the Delta variant. Wynne began by showing transmissibility rates by county through July, August and September. As of Sept. 28, the Delta variant had covered the entire country. Wynne showed additional data that related to worsening life expectancies around the globe since the pandemic broke. The age group with the current highest case load was 30-39 years of age. Current hospitalizations are younger than the previous year. More than a third of all those hospitalized were younger than 60 years old.

Wynne noted that the vaccines provided excellent protection against hospitalization and death. He added that the Center for Disease Control had declared that it was safe to receive both the COVID-19 and flu vaccines, and that it would be more important than ever for individuals to get the flu shot so that medical resources and hospitals would not be stretched by COVID and flu outbreaks.

Dickinson State University President Steve Easton spoke to the Board about a proposed joint powers agreement between DSU and Southwest Area Career and Technical Education. Easton said the school district had purchased a 40-acre, seven-building frack yard that it would ultimately be converting for CTE purposes. The Board unanimously approved the joint powers agreement.

Vice Chancellor of Strategy and Strategic Engagement Jerry Rostad provided final details to the Board on its strategic plan’s objectives and metrics, which are tied to the system and campuses strategic plans and allow data to be tracked and made publicly available via NDUS dashboards. Rostad gave background to each of the changes to keep the Board members informed on why certain metrics had been adjusted. The Board voted unanimously to approve the updates. In the future, NDUS plans to finalize some goals in the plan, including how to measure success in promoting diversity and inclusion.

Interim Vice Chancellor for Administrative Affairs and Chief Financial Officer David Krebsbach brought forward North Dakota University System retirement plan recommendations for plan administration. Krebsbach spoke about plan pricing and revenue credit distribution. The Board unanimously approved the recommendations as proposed.

Board member Jeffry Volk motioned to have recordings from executive sessions made available from past meetings to current Board members. He noted that it was important for him to be able to understand how historically the Board has deliberated on critical matters. He said learning about those things would help him to be a better Board member. Volk said that when his term began on July 1, he had requested to obtain the records from the prior meeting’s executive session when he had not yet been a Board member. At that time, he learned that only the Board could authorize release of those documents to be released to someone who had not been in those sessions. He ultimately motioned to have all documents from executive sessions for the past two years be made available to him. Student Member Gracie Lian seconded the motion. Board member Nick Hacker said that there was no precedent for opening up prior executive sessions, and that there was no case law related to the subject in the state. He cautioned the Board to resist approving the motion. Ryan noted that he disagreed that Volk should have access to the records from before he was a member. Lian asked if Legal Counsel Eric Olson could provide guidance on the subject. Olson noted that North Dakota Century Code stated executive session information could be made public unless the subject discussed was confidential. Olson noted that he and colleagues read the statute to mean that it applied equally to Board members and members of the public. The motion was ultimately defeated 7-1.

Minot State University President Steve Shirley and Dakota College at Bottineau Dean Jerry Migler provided an update on the Minot Center for Career and Technical Education. Shirley said DCB and MiSU had a strong history of collaboration. He noted that funding commitments were in place thanks to a federal grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, as well as local funding from the city of Minot and Trinity Health. He noted that the city’s Magic Fund would provide $800,000 for the purchase of a building in downtown Minot from Trinity Health, who had made the facility available at a lower rate. Then, DCB would utilize the building solely for CTE. Migler said the new programs would continue the area’s long tradition of offering postsecondary CTE and would help retain critical workers in the region. Currently there are eight programs under development for the CTE center.

The Board then heard updates the concurrent presidential searches taking place at NDSU and NDSCS. Louters said that the NDSU search process was off to a great start, having met with eight different stakeholder groups at NDSU. She shared the job posting briefly. Volk said that the NDSCS process was about a month behind NDSU’s schedule. The search committee held a kickoff meeting with AGB Search, with the first listening sessions scheduled for this month. One month from now Volk expected the job posting to go out.

Hagerott spoke next, offering updates on the United States Innovation and Competition Act (USICA), a five-state consortium. He noted that if North Dakota and its regional partners was selected for it that would result in an influx in federal research funding.

Vice Chancellor of Information Technology and Chief Information Officer Darin King spoke about the current systemwide rollout of Cortex XDR. He noted that significant progress had been made at all campuses. King added that Core Technology Services had begun offering apprenticeships, with several in place at the campuses already.

Director of Institutional Research Jen Weber gave the Board an update on the final Fall 2021 census data. The 2021 academic year saw more than 50,000 degree seeking students in the system, more than 2,700 non-degree seeking students and more than 8,000 non-credit seeking students for a total of more than 61,000 students systemwide. Weber then provided a headcount, full-time equivalencies, and scheduled credit hours. She noted that university system enrollment did very well during the pandemic compared to other state systems, and that enrollment was only down one percent from last year compared to five percent nationally. Four campuses increased enrollment over last year’s count.


Committee business, policies

Board member Tim Mihalick brought forward the Budget and Finance Committee agenda, which included a request from Dakota College at Bottineau to issue up to $2.5 million in Housing and Auxiliary Facilities Revenue Bonds; to ratify the chancellor’s interim authorization for DSU to proceed with renovation of Pulver Hall; for NDSU to proceed with the Ladd Hall Partial Renovation project at an estimated cost of $2.4 million; and for NDSU to begin a formal fundraising campaign for a new Performing Arts Facility through the NDSU Foundation and/or other affiliated entities with an estimated maximum scope/amount of $45 million.

Board Vice Chair Jill Louters, Ed.D., brought forward the Academic and Student Affairs agenda, which focused on tenure that had been awarded to two faculty members. The committee also saw new programs get created and heard a presentation from Easton on the joint powers agreement.

Hacker brought forward the Audit Committee agenda, noting they overviewed the quarterly progress plan from the Audit Department. They also reviewed four state of North Dakota Auditor’s office audits, and associated campus responses. Three had been adopted and were public on the auditor’s website.

Ryan and Board member Danita Bye brought forward the Research and Governance Committee agenda, noting that a presentation had been given by NDSCS on land management. Bye noted that the committee spent time reviewing the strategic goals and would be reviewing them on a more consistent basis.

In regular business, the Board updated several policies. First was a waiver to Paragraph 9, section f, vii of Policy 520 (Title IX – Sexual Harassment), followed by the first readings of re-affirmation of 15 HR policies and specific HR Policy 5 (Pay). The second reading for both was waived. The Board also held the first readings of Policies 830.1 (Student Payment Policy), 830.2 (Refunds), and Policy 440 (Enrollment Reporting).

The Board also moved to allow North Dakota State University to name the Agricultural Products Development Center (APDC) facility in honor of the Peltier family as per SBHE policy 902.12. The Board also heard an update on the recent Joint Boards meeting, heard an update on ECOR, and approved its schedule for the 2022 year. The Board also formally recognized Richman for his 35 years of service to NDSCS.