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ND secretary of state candidate drops out, raising questions about GOP's next steps

Column: Tenure policy changes would threaten community diversity

Author Carol Ratchenski. Special to The Forum

I graduated from North Dakota Universities with both my undergraduate (University of North Dakota, 1981) and my graduate degree (North Dakota State University, 1993) as did four of my five siblings, a niece, my only son (UND, 2016), my maternal grandmother (UND, 1926), and my mother (NDSU, 1956).

In the next three years another niece and three nephews will do the same. The North Dakota University system is woven into my family's history and future. Indeed, it is in our DNA. Our relationship with academia goes far beyond our own degree programs and resulting career opportunities. The North Dakota communities we live in are richer, more diverse, more stimulating, more culturally interesting because of the scholars and staff who live here while pursuing their professional careers on our campuses, often internationally and nationally recognized careers of research and teaching excellence.

The mentors that have supported three generations of students in my family have only been available because our university system has provided a setting that respects the integrity of the academic life and operates within long-accepted best practices in higher education. The State Board of Higher Education is currently considering a proposed change to its tenure policy (SBHE Policy 605.3) that would significantly threaten the future of our University System and the educational experiences available to North Dakotans that have been available and affordable for over a century.

This proposed policy change would affect graduation rates, and retention and the economic future of our state. It will also seriously undermine our long-standing collaborative relationship between university faculty and community members. The excellence that has for generations inspired and challenged my family members is at stake. Our communities are at stake.

We live in a small, rural state with difficult weather. Still, thanks to a university system and a Board of Higher Education that historically has viewed North Dakota as a place that values and benefits from a higher education system that nurtures exemplary research, graduate programs that create informed citizens, and a diverse population, North Dakota is a creative and interesting place to live. Thanks largely to our university system, we have neighbors from all over the world, students and professors who add intellectual rigor to all our conversations, at community events, in church, synagogue, and mosque basements, in book groups, at neighborhood picnics, city council meetings and dinner parties. And the cultural programming available on campuses throughout our state-- music, art, lectures, theater—enriches the lives of all North Dakotans.

I urge the Board of Higher Education to continue to support what are long-accepted best practices in higher education and reject this policy. We need you to keep doing what you've always done, build a thoughtful, educated North Dakota.