Two Options on the Table for Dealing with Higher Ed Issues - KXNet.com - Bismarck/Minot/Williston/Dickinson-KXNEWS,ND

Two Options on the Table for Dealing with Higher Ed Issues

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North Dakota's Higher Education system has been in the middle of countless controversies the last few years between school scandals, conflicts with University Presidents and displeasure with chancellors.

Today two House committees hear about two options for dealing with managing the University system.

Donnell Preskey has the story.

It's no secret, there are many lawmakers who want to change the way the department of Higher Education is managed.

Especially now when there is displeasure with Chancellor Hamid Shirvani.

Republican Rep. Al Carlson of Fargo says,"Presidents are told they aren't supposed to talk to us or speak at board meetings. Is that the type of governance that you would want for a $1 billion investment for the state of ND?" My answer is not."

Carlson, proposes a measure that would have the governor appoint a CEO of Higher Ed. The issue, if approved by lawmakers, would go on the next general election ballot.

"I would hope that we put this forward to voters, and let them have a chance to weigh in on what they see and hear," says Carlson.

"Something really needs to be done. We have the timing to do it and the people of ND know there's something wrong with the current system," says Republican Rep. Rick Becker of Bismarck.

Becker has a different twist to the idea -- have North Dakotan's elect a Director of the department.

"One of primary concerns I have is spending, not many restrictions if appointed. If you are elected by people and costs are soaring tuition is soaring, people are going to be unhappy," says Becker.

"Right now the buck doesn't stop with anyone, and if that person was elected or appointed that would change," says Dustin Gawrylow.

"Time for tough love and time to change the system so it's more directly accountable to people of ND," says Bismarck resident Shawn Johnson.

Johnson says if the elected official doesn't perform, they won't be re-elected and residents will have no one to blame but themselves.

"If current system really is the best system for us, then that will come out. But more importantly by having alternatives on ballot to debate, electors can make the decision. Shouldn't fear that debate," says Johnson.

The only one who spoke against the ideas was the University System Vice Chancellor. Laura Glatt says the board of Higher Education wants lawmakers to make sure any proposed change is evaluated and studied prior to it going before voters.

"Bottom line is are the distractions and uncertainty of the proposed reorganization, be in the best interest of ND stakeholders? We don't think so," says Glatt.

Lawmakers say both plans add accountability, remove the board of Higher Ed and allow the legislature to be involved in setting policies.

There are five constitutional measures that deal with changing how the University System is managed.

Those that are approved will go on the general election ballots for voters to decide.

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