State higher-ed board discusses concerns over TikTok
North Dakota leaders concerned about data privacy and security
BISMARCK — State Board of Higher Education leaders discussed ramifications of TikTok on the North Dakota University System's network, during its monthly meeting on Thursday.
In his IT update, Darin King, vice chancellor for IT/chief information officer for the university system, discussed data security and user privacy concerns surrounding TikTok, a Chinese-owned social media platform. King said the platform collects extensive data from its 100 million U.S. users, for the purpose of using its algorithm to tailor content for its users’ preferences.
King said if NDUS decides to restrict TikTok use on university networks, it has a range of avenues to pursue to implement such a ban.
“We do have the capability to block TikTok from NDUS owned devices through a number of different technologies,” he said. “Some are system-wide technologies, and others would perhaps have to be done at the campus level.”
The use of TikTok on university networks has been a contentious issue nationwide, with a number of universities and entire state university systems banning the platform's use on university owned devices and networks. Notable universities that have banned TikTok include Auburn University, the University of Texas, and the University System of Georgia.
Board member Kevin Black encouraged further discussion among NDUS leaders on the subject, while also expressing concerns about the potential for nefarious use of user data by the Chinese Communist Party.
“To be very candid, I think it would be a mistake to think that the Chinese Communist Party is not trying to use this app to infiltrate every aspect of our society,” he said.
King said that despite the security concerns surrounding TikTok, it has been used for positive communication purposes across NDUS institutions.
“We would have to think about those situations very precisely,” he said. “How do we mitigate any risks it may pose, while continuing to use it as a means to attract and retain students?”
Chancellor Mark Hagerott and Board Chair Dr. Casey Ryan recommended that the board continue discussions about the ramifications of TikTok, with input from the presidents of NDUS' institutions, at its next meeting in May.
The board also provided an update on the appropriations that would be provided following the passage of House Bill 1003. The bill now awaits action in the Senate.
Among the appropriations that would be destined for NDUS in House Bill 1003, include 4% salary increases for NDUS employees in each year of the biennium. Additionally, $600 million in capital building funds, $42.8 million in student financial aid and $36 million to fund the state’s Challenge Grant, a three-fold increase from the previous biennium.
The board unanimously opposed Senate Bill 2247, which addresses the instruction of “specified topics” at institutions of higher education in North Dakota. The bill has passed by a count of 38-6, and is awaiting action in the House Education Committee.
The board also voted to create a joint study between the State Board of Higher Education, the Legislature and the Council of College Faculties regarding House Bill 1446. The bill, which passed the House by a count of 66-27 and is awaiting action in the Senate, seeks to reform the process for obtaining tenure at North Dakota universities.
Board Member Nick Hacker said although he believes the tenure process needs reform, he is hesitant to outright oppose House Bill 1446 due to a need for a joint study.
“Although the bill is not in great shape at the moment, and I could support opposing it, I think this is a broader topic than just something the State Board should work through,” said Hacker. “I do think policy makers should be involved in an interim study, to come up with what we’re doing from the standpoint relating to tenure.”
Black concurred with Hacker’s desire for a joint study.
“I think the most appropriate course of action as an indicator to the Legislature, would be to caveat this motion through an amendment saying while we oppose the bill on the face, we as a board would request that perhaps the Senate amends this bill to a joint study with the State Board of Higher Education,” said Black.
Ryan said the board should examine whether standards for obtaining tenure are universal across the NDUS.
“My concern is if the process is being followed uniformly throughout the 11 institutions we’re responsible for,” said Ryan. “I don’t know the answer to that. I would like to know the answer. The problem may lie not with tenure per se, but with how it’s being reviewed.”
In other news from the State Board:
- The board approved NDSU’s request to proceed with $14.5 million in renovations to Pavek Hall.
- The board approved a change to SBHE policy 402.1.2, authorizing NDUS institutions to require placement tests for incoming students desiring to place above entry level courses. The policy change was implemented to compensate for the lack of required standardized testing for university entry, according to Vice Chancellor Lisa Johnson.
- Jennifer Weber, director of institutional research for the NDUS, presented its spring enrollment report. Total NDUS enrollment is up 2% from spring 2022, and full time enrollment credit hours are up 1%. According to Weber, the disparity in enrollment and credit hour increases is due to more part-time enrollment, including high school students who are participating in dual enrollment.