Board reviews tenure, legislative business

Board reviews tenure, legislative business

The State Board of Higher Education focused on an updated budget and other legislative business at its most recent meeting.

Chancellor Mark Hagerott opened the discussion with the reason for the updates to the budget, which the Board had previously approved. He noted that in his time at North Dakota University System, he hadn’t seen a more dynamic and complex environment than what was happening now. He credited studies that the Board had sponsored for being proactive and ultimately accepted by both the governor and legislature.

Vice Chancellor for Administrative Affairs and Chief Financial Officer David Krebsbach then briefed the Board on the details of the update. Krebsbach noted that the update included the original budget from June but added specific funding requests that NDUS had achieved more clarity on. Included were the six-and-four salary increases, increases to the health insurance program, and $41 million in inflationary increases to the funding formula. He added that the minimum amount payable had been increased from 96 percent to 98 percent.

Also on the agenda was discussion from the executive staff on varied pieces of proposed legislation that could impact the North Dakota University System. Dickinson State University President Steve Easton spoke to the parameters of the legislative bill dealing with tenure. He noted that the bill’s genesis came after an inquiry from a Dickinson-area legislator. Easton noted that while there was sentiment in the legislature that would completely eliminate tenure, that’s not what the proposed legislation would do. Instead, the proposed bill would outline duties and responsibilities of tenure and for positions to be financially viable.

Legislative Liaison Tammy Dolan noted that there had been 951 bills and resolutions introduced so far, with the system office tracking 105. She noted that not all of them related directly to higher education but could potentially have an impact on the university system. Few that they were tracking had any official action taken on them, some haven’t had a hearing yet, but all of them would have a hearing by mid-February when legislative crossover happened.

Member Dr. John Warford brought forward business from the Academic and Student Affairs committee, which included a discussion surrounding tenure. Recently, legislation was proposed that would study tenure at Bismarck State College and Dickinson State University, to see if changes to the job protection could or should be made. He noted there were several program changes and terminations, and policies affirmed.


Committee reports, policy

Vice Chair Tim Mihalick brought forward the Budget and Finance business, including approval for Minot State University to proceed with financing for and renovation of the “Beaver Dam” area of the MiSU Student Center; a request for proposal for the NDUS retirement plan investment consultant; and NDUS retirement plan revenue credits.

Board Chair Dr. Casey Ryan and Member Danita Bye respectively brought forward business from the Research and Governance committee, which included setting the June meeting at Valley City State University.

Member Nick Hacker provided updates from both the Audit and Ad Hoc committees. He noted the audit team had launched its own page on the website, and former legal counsel Chris Pieske had transitioned to be the new compliance officer. He noted that the ad hoc committee meeting was delayed due to conflicts with legislative testimony.

The Board also held first readings of Policies 506.1 (Immunizations), 411 (Admission), 102 (Objectives and Codification), 307.3 (Branch Campus Governance and Organization), 350.1 (State Board of Agricultural Research and Education), 302.7 (Research and Governance Committee), 308.1 (Officer and Employee Code of Conduct); and moved to reaffirm Policies 100.6 (Authority and Responsibility of the State Board of Higher Education), 301.1 (Organization & Titles of Institutions Governed by the SBHE), 303.2 (NDUS Strategic Plan and Objectives), and 350.3 (School of Medicine and Health Sciences Advisory Board). Chief of Staff Terry Meyer also reported to the Board on Policy 310.2 (Board Officers; Officer Responsibilities; Election).

Student member of the Board Sadie Hanson provided an update from the North Dakota Student Association, including that NDSA met the prior weekend and passed six resolutions. NDSA has also been testifying at the legislature on their priorities.

Faculty Advisor to the Board Lisa Montplaisir, Ph.D., provided an update from the Council of College Faculty, including that CCF met earlier this month and discussed collaboration, ChatGPT, tenure and more.

Staff Advisor to the Board Michael Linnell provided an update from the State Staff Senate, including that members were watching legislature closely, and thanked the system office for tracking all the bills and making them available.

In other business, the Board also expressed support for NDSU’s commitment to reduce its budget shortfall. Member Kevin Black noted that the members of the State Board of Higher Education, in executing their responsibilities to guide the North Dakota University System did resolve to support North Dakota State University’s efforts to strategically align to the needs of the state by transforming, adapting, and innovating the institution through strategic investments, strategic reductions, and the merger to five colleges. The Board also heard a brief IT update from Vice Chancellor Darin King, an update from Vice Chancellor Lisa Johnson on general education digital literacy requirement, an update from Hagerott on Native American repatriation, and an update from University of North Dakota President Andy Armacost on the use of machine learning and artificial intelligence, particularly ChatGPT. The next meeting will take place Thursday, Feb. 23.