Letter: Determine collaborative plan for SBHE removal
To the editor,
Columnist Rob Port published a piece stating "the university system has too little accountability to our elected leaders." Port states that "university presidents answer to the chancellor, and the chancellor answers to the State Board of Higher Education (SBHE), and the board answers to, nobody really. They're appointed by the governor, sure, but the governor cannot remove them from office."
I have to ask why board members cannot be removed. The process for appointing members to the SBHE is that interested parties send in an application that is reviewed by a nominating committee chaired by the director of public instruction (an elected position). The nominating
committee consists mostly of elected officials. The final decision is made by the governor, also an elected official.
Therefore, if the Legislature and pundits do not believe SBHE members are accountable, then make them accountable and propose a process for removal. Could not a fair and balanced committee of elected officials and North Dakota University System stakeholders be appointed to hear complaints about SBHE members? This committee could have representation of all stakeholders in higher education, including students and faculty. Could a transparent process not be put into place that provides a method for the removal of SBHE members?
Mr. Port is correct when he states that politics are consistently venal and vicious in the university system. However, what he conveniently overlooks is that those "venal and vicious" politics are often originated by politically connected North Dakota leaders who don't like this president or don't like that chancellor or their child received a poor grade from some professor who is too liberal or too conservative for them. Is Mr. Port really suggesting that the "venal and vicious" politics of the university system would be cured by placing the NDUS entirely into the hands of the very people who helped create the "venal and vicious" politics that he refers to?
If North Dakota officials and Mr. Port really want accountability in higher education, while maintaining a necessary separation between higher education and politics, they need to put forth a proposal for the removal of SBHE members when necessary. A collaborative effort between representative from the 11 NDUS campuses and elected officials would be a good first step.
Thomas V. Petros