Letter: SBHE needs to step up, halt HB 1446
This bill is unconstitutional on its face yet the SBHE has remained “neutral” and has not opposed the bill.
Our State Board of Higher Education (SBHE) is failing in its most important fiduciary (legal) responsibility, which is to defend its Constitutional authority. The North Dakota State Constitution states, “The state board of higher education shall have full authority over the institutions under its control…” (emphasis added). Neither the State Legislature or the Governor have the Constitutional authority to interfere in the administration of the public institutions of higher education.
Representative Lefor (R-Dickinson), has introduced HB 1446 which would significantly change the administration of Dickinson State University and Bismarck State College by altering the role of the presidents and drastically changing the Board’s tenure policy for faculty. This bill is unconstitutional on its face yet the SBHE has remained “neutral” and has not opposed the bill. The North Dakota University System Chancellor, Mark Hagerott, testified before the House Education Committee but was “neutral” because the Board had not authorized him to take a position on the bill.
The SBHE was created in 1938 by a citizens’ initiated measure after Gov. William Langer had his Board of Administration fire seven faculty and staff members at the Agriculture College, now NDSU. After the firing, the college promptly lost its North Central Association’s accreditation. The Board was created by the citizens to protect higher education from political interference.
What do we have in HB 1446? Political interference.
Whether the Board agrees with some or none of the contents of HB 1446 is beside the point. Each member of the Board has a legal duty to protect the Board’s authority under the Constitution and to protect higher education from political interference. Board member Casey Ryan needs to step up to his leadership responsibility as Board Chair.
Contact your state legislators and tell them to honor their duty to uphold the state Constitution and vote against HB 1446.