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THEIR OPINION: Herald editorial showed raw parochialism

FARGO — If there was doubt that parochialism and self-aggrandizing regionalism are alive and well in 21st-century North Dakota, it was dispelled by a June 25 editorial in the Grand Forks Herald (“Dalrymple slights need for balance on state board,” editorial, Page A4, June 25).

(Full disclosure: The Herald, like The Forum, is owned by Forum Communications Co.)

We’re not in the habit of taking our sister newspapers’ editorial-writing colleagues to task, but the premise of the piece was so flagrantly aimed at Fargo, it begs challenging.

Opining about the makeup of the state Board of Higher Education, the editorial tried — so-o-o hard — to make the case that because four board members are from Fargo and one of the four is (omigod!) a former North Dakota State University football coach, the board is “out of balance.”

If “balance” is defined by board members’ hometowns, the argument might be sound. But if “balance” is viewed as it should be — a mix of education, experience and commitment to the University System — then the board’s makeup looks pretty good.

Well, the argument posits, it’s not just about Grand Forks’ parochialism. Oh, please. Of course it is.

It is true that an outdated and blatantly political requirement for board “balance” is in the state Constitution. The new board makeup does not violate the geographical/educational mandate, but it comes close. The provision might have made sense generations ago, but it does not today.

What is really afoot in all this, as the record reveals, is an attitude that is corrosive to a progressive state. It’s about the destructive sentiment in North Dakota’s history and DNA that causes otherwise intelligent people to react badly against all things Fargo. It’s about the unfortunate tendency to assume that “balance” in higher education management cannot be attained if there are too many board members from any one place.

It apparently doesn’t matter if the appointees are competent, as long as they hail from “appropriate” schools and cities.

The insulting assumption in the goofy scenario is that board members who come from Fargo or Grand Forks or wherever will sacrifice their responsibility to the system in favor of seeking goodies for North Dakota State University or UND, or wherever their loyalties allegedly lie. That’s not the way a responsible board works. It’s not the way board members manage the system. The best board members have long ago shed the backyard-ism that still afflicts areas of the state.

As long as North Dakotans blithely hop aboard the self-serving train of narrow parochial interests, it is all but certain that enlightened public policy will be derailed by jealousy, envy and the inevitable backbiting they cause. History confirms it.

— The Forum