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Measure 1 provides more members for higher ed board

Board size, term length, selection committee would change

Jill Schramm/MDN Minot State University is one of 11 institutions governed under the State Board of Higher Education. Measure 1 would change the size of the board, length of terms and makeup of the member selection committee.

More members would help carry the workload for the State Board of Education, according to proponents of North Dakota’s Measure 1.

The 2019 Legislature placed Measure 1 on the ballot as a constitutional amendment. If voters approve, the Board of Higher Education would increase its membership from eight to 15. No member could be a legislator, statewide elected official or full-time state employee. One of the 15 positions would continue to be designated for a student enrolled in one of the state’s higher education institutions.

Sen. Joan Heckaman, D-New Rockford, who had served on a governor’s task force to study higher education governance, said there wasn’t interest by legislators in a major overhaul of the system as had been looked at by the task force. The task force had recommended separate boards for North Dakota State University and the University of North Dakota as well as a board for the state’s other nine institutions of higher education. During the 2019 session, a bill to create two boards — one to oversee the research universities in Fargo and Grand Forks and one to oversee other schools — failed in the House.

Heckaman said there was a need to look at the size of the board if there was going to be one board.

“We needed to have more members on that board so that there’s more people working on different portfolios and to give people more opportunity to connect directly with the campuses. We haven’t had as much connection as I think the board members would like,” she said. “It allows you to have different subcommittees that, I think, are important. When you have eight members, you don’t have an opportunity to have very many subcommittees working.”

Measure 1 also increases the length of a term on the board from four years to six years. Board members could serve two terms.

The secretary of state would replace the Supreme Court chief justice as one of a committee of five people advancing nominees to the governor, who makes appointments that must be confirmed by the state Senate. Heckaman said the change prevents a potential conflict of interest by the chief justice. The others on the selection committee are the president of North Dakota United, superintendent of public instruction, president pro tempore of the Senate and Speaker of the House of Representatives.

Changes would become effective June 30, 2021.

“All the work that the task force did I think was really valuable. We did a lot of studying. There was a lot of information presented to us,” Heckaman said. “Sometimes trying to change things as hard, but we felt the need to change the membership number.”

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