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Duaine Espegard
Duaine Espegard

Duaine Espegard: Measure 3 puts politicians in charge of higher ed

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opinion Grand Forks, 58203

Grand Forks North Dakota 375 2nd Ave. N. 58203

GRAND FORKS — While reading a recent letter, I noticed that the writer, Nick Creamer, failed to disclose that he is an employee of North Dakota House Majority Leader Al Carlson’s caucus (“The change we need in N.D. higher education,” Page A4, Aug. 25).

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Given the fact of that employment, I strongly suspect that the letter reflects the views and direction of Carlson.

The writer encourages North Dakota voters to vote for Measure 3. This is the measure that would eliminate the State Board of Higher Education and put the Legislature in charge of the university system.

As Creamer points out, Measure 3 would replace the current board — a board that has the representation of North Dakota citizens, including a student member — with three full-time commissioners. What he fails to mention is that the proposal also replaces the chancellor, and that under the proposed initiative, those three political appointees who’d be managing the system would be doing so under the direction of the Legislature.

This is something that Carlson has pushed for in a number of sessions.

Creamer also indicates that the full-time commissioners would have extensive backgrounds in higher education, when in fact, only one of the members would be required to be holding “a professional position within the higher education sector” at the time of his or her appointment.

One of the other members is required to have had leadership experience in the private sector, and the background of the third member is left unspecified. A lawmaker, perhaps?

Last but not least, Creamer tells us not to worry about the issue of accreditation of the North Dakota University System’s institutions. This reassuring claim is also brought forward by Carlson, but it has no basis. The Higher Learning Commission, which accredits the institutions, looks very closely at the independence of a university system’s governing board, insists that the board be insulated from political pressure and has expressed its concern about Measure 3. I believe this will be an issue if the measure is passed.

It is time to realize that as in other states, the North Dakota University System needs a strong chancellor with an independent board that backs the chancellor and sets the direction for improvements to the system. Then and only then will we see the issues and challenges facing our colleges improve.

I encourage a No vote on Measure 3 — a vote that will send a message to keep politics out of our university system.

Espegard is a past member and chairman of the North Dakota Board of Higher Education.

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