The State Board of Higher Education gave tentative approval to a UND proposal to consolidate dormitory rooms on the campus.

The proposal would see dormitory-style buildings organized in a cluster around Wilkerson Hall, with extensive improvements made to some of those buildings, while some residential structures east of the English Coulee would be torn down. New construction projects could happen west of the coulee, including new student apartments that would be managed by a private company. The SBHE OK’d the project at its regular meeting on Tuesday, June 29, but the proposal needs further budgetary approval at a meeting in July.

“This is a major and necessary construction project that ties to our long-term campus master plan,” said UND President Andrew Armacost. “We have spent significant effort on other areas of campus, like our learning facilities and our student union, and it's about time we actually have the residence halls catch up and provide a space for our students to live and to connect with one another.”

The idea is for UND to engage in a partnership with a private company to re-design student housing. After soliciting a request for qualifications, and then requests for proposals from multiple bidders, the university selected Johnson Controls to begin design and cost-estimating work. UND officials would like to reduce the number of dorm rooms from more than 3,300 to about 1,900, which would save about $200 million in deferred maintenance.

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“We've taken a lot of actions over the past several years to right-size our campus to improve the infrastructure,” said Jed Shivers, vice president of finance and operations. “Housing has really been a piece that's left behind.”

SBHE members also approved UND’s subscription tuition model, which would charge a flat fee of $4,850 per year to students attending online, in a non-degree capacity. SBHE adopted the policy for other schools in the North Dakota University System as well, in a move meant to help people develop workforce skills.

The board also approved a motion allowing UND and the UND Alumni Association and Foundation to refinance revenue bonds for the School of Medicine's Family Practice Center in Minot. The motion approves up to $1,645,484 in new bonds to take advantage of lower interest rates, which will save the school $267,000 per year on its lease payments. The board approved a similar bond request for Minot State University that will save the school a considerable amount of money.

In other SBHE news, members:

  • Approved contracts for presidents in the NDUS system, after a marathon four-hour closed executive session. State law provides for presidents’ contracts to be discussed privately. Board members approved contracts for Doug Darling, Lake Region State College; Alan LaFave, Valley City State University; Steve Shirley, Minot State University; Brian Van Horn, Mayville State University; John Richman, North Dakota State College of Science; Andrew Armacost, UND; Doug Jensen, Bismarck State College; and Steve Easton, Dickinson State University. Details of the presidents’ contracts, and what increases were given were not made available at the meeting.

  • Renewed NDUS Chancellor Mark Hagerott’s contract for another year, with a 1.5% salary increase, which members said was in line with other increases. Board member Nick Hacker detailed a letter to the chancellor concerning his review, which will likely be the last time this is done in a public meeting, as state law is set to change to require such discussions to be held in a private session, same as discussions about university presidents’ contracts.

  • Addressed an ongoing anonymous complaint against Mayville State University President Brian Van Horn. The nature of the complaint was not disclosed at the meeting, but Kathleen Neset, a board member, encouraged Van Horn and all NDUS presidents to conduct themselves “with the highest level of professionalism.”

    “You are on the clock 24/7,” Neset said. “You are the face of your university, and it's very important that you keep that utmost in your work and your lifestyle, as you work within your campus and communities.”

    Neset said the board cannot act on anonymous complaints, and has instructed the office of compliance and ethics to no longer respond to similar complaints related to the original matter.