Kelley opposes bill requiring him to seek permission to use old REAUND President Bob Kelley spoke in opposition Tuesday at the Legislature to a bill that would require him to seek permission from his own subordinate to use the old Ralph Engelstad Arena.
By: Tu-Uyen Tran, Grand Forks Herald
UND President Robert Kelley spoke in opposition Tuesday at the Legislature to a bill that would require him to seek permission from his own subordinate to use the old Ralph Engelstad Arena.
It just goes against good management principles, he told the House Education Committee.
Kelley was joined in opposition by Bill Goetz, chancellor of the North Dakota University System. His board had earlier expressed a mixture of disgust and disbelief over the bill, which they consider micromanagement. Board policy has long been to treat each university president as chief executive officers with full control over their institutions.
House Bill 1231 would give the director of UND’s Energy and Environmental Research Center veto power over any use of land now occupied by the old Ralph, located at the southeast corner of campus. If the director were to raise objections, the president would have to wait a year to take any action.
Rep. Bob Skarphol, R-Tioga, the bill’s main author, told the committee he was concerned about the ability of the EERC to grow. EERC staff, though not anyone in an executive position, had told him they didn’t think there was good communication about the issue with the administration, he said.
The bill, which would expire June 30, 2012, is just an attempt to start the conversation at the Legislature on the issue, he said, and he expects the committee would amend it.
Skarphol is chairman of the House Appropriations Committee’s Education and Environment Division. Other bill sponsors include Reps. Mark Owens, R-Grand Forks, Lonny Winrich, D-Grand Forks, and Sen. Rich Wardner, R-Dickinson.
The Education Committee listened to both sides, but Chairwoman RaeAnn Kelsch, R-Mandan, held off on any discussion until today. She said she’s in no hurry for the committee to recommend or oppose the bill.
Southeast campus is used by the EERC and UND athletics. The old Ralph sits in the middle with Memorial Stadium to the west and the EERC’s various buildings to the east. According to Kelley, land use plans under development splits the old Ralph between the two users.
The area is largely surrounded by existing structures. To the south is the BNSF railyard; to the north is the federal Human Nutrition Research Center; to the west is the rest of campus; and to the east are private homes, though there’s also a strip of vacant land owned by the university.
Skarphol said he had toured the EERC not too long ago and came away very impressed. The center competes for a lot of its funding rather than rely on taxpayers, he said. “They have demonstrated they can take care of themselves. They don’t need state dollars.”
Restrictions on its physical expansion restricts its ability to grow, he said.
Skarphol also noted that he’s bringing the bill on his own with no prompting from anyone.
Kelley said the EERC isn’t alone in its competition for non-state dollars; many UND research institutions do the same. The EERC, though, is alone in that its director, Gerry Groenewold, reports directly to the president, he said.
Under questioning by Chairwoman Kelsch, Kelley characterized his relationship with Groenewold as “cordial” and “professional.” They meet once a week, he said, usually on Tuesday mornings.
Groenewold declined to comment through his spokesman, Derek Walters, who said the director didn’t have much to say as he has nothing to do with the bill. Walters said he would agree with Kelley’s assessment of the relationship.