State Board of Higher Education votes to block TikTok from state’s university networks
Ban set to take effect on July 1
BISMARCK – The State Board of Higher Education voted 7-1 to ban TikTok, a Chinese social media platform, from all internet networks within the North Dakota University System at its monthly meeting on Thursday, March 30.
The ban, which takes effect on July 1, does not preclude individuals from accessing the platform on cellular data networks. Sadie Hanson, the student member, was the lone dissenting vote.
Board member Kevin Black, who introduced the motion to ban TikTok, said the platform presents cybersecurity threats to the NDUS’ networks.
“I think there is a clear and present threat here,” Black said. “Why is this relevant to us? We have two institutions within 20 miles of two incredibly important Air Force bases. The Minot Air Force Base, which houses two legs of the nuclear triad, and Grand Forks Air Base conducting an incredible mission with UAS. These institutions are also creating knowledge and intellectual property, and TikTok presents a threat to this.”
According to Meloney Linder, vice president of marketing and communications at UND, the university has used TikTok since 2019 to “build brand affinity” among prospective students. The university also uses the platform to communicate updates within the dining, campus police and career services departments, among others.
Darin King, vice chancellor for information technology for the NDUS, said technology exists to provide additional layers of security, such as firewalls, on university devices dedicated to marketing and outreach. He also said TikTok does not necessarily present an “active threat” to NDUS institutions.
“I think the biggest threat is the privacy piece,” said King. “Anybody using social media has essentially given up their privacy, and TikTok is no different than Facebook or Twitter from that standpoint. The cyber threat of this would be the potential for the app to be weaponized. How high a risk that is is less clear to us — the federal government blocks it, but they don’t tell us why they block it, so we don’t know if they have examples of it being weaponized.”
TikTok was banned from state-owned devices in December.
When asked whether the ban will negatively impact UND’s ability to recruit students, Linder responded that TikTok is “a very small portion of UND’s marketing portfolio for recruitment,” and “if there is a ban, we would find other ways to continue to reach this segment.”
Black’s motion contains a provision allowing universities to use TikTok for advertising and student recruitment efforts, provided administrators, along with King, give evidence that doing so would not compromise cybersecurity.
In other news
In his legislative update, Chancellor Mark Hagerott said the board’s priorities remain with focusing on retaining human capital and combatting the effects of inflation. Hagerott pointed to the importance of proposed 6% and 4% salary increases for the first and second year of the biennial budget, respectively, within House Bill 1003, which deals with the NDUS’ appropriations.
“Our No. 1 priority is taking care of our people,” Hagerott said. “Especially since inflation is not breaking as hoped.”
The board also discussed the potential impact of House Bill 1446, which the board officially opposed. The bill, which passed the House by a count of 66-27 on Feb. 20 and is awaiting action in the Senate, seeks to overhaul the tenure review process at NDUS institutions.
Tammy Dolan, legislative liaison for the system, said the Senate Education Committee recently amended the bill to remove language indicating the bill is a pilot program.
“My understanding is that the Senate didn’t want to imply that it would be expanding beyond the two institutions — Bismarck State College and Dickinson State University — but the committee did give it a do pass recommendation,” Dolan said.
Hagerott said the amendment allows the board to testify before the Senate again, as the bill will proceed to a conference committee before a final vote on the Senate floor.
“Just to clarify, no one is saying that North Dakota will get rid of tenure,” Hagerott said. “It is addressing post-tenure review to ensure productivity in later phases of the career. Chair (Casey) Ryan has assured legislators that he is personally willing to lead the post-tenure review.”
Hagerott announced the disbandment of the board’s COVID-19 taskforce, due to an improved epidemiological environment.
The board approved NDSU’s request to begin a fundraising campaign to renovate and modernize its Main Research Center. Fundraising will be conducted through the NDSU Foundation and affiliated entities, with a goal of raising $6 million.