BISMARCK -- A change to a North Dakota University System policy allowed the State Board of Higher Education to award tenure to two presidents during its latest meeting.

The tenure policy change, which was unanimously approved by the board Thursday, Dec. 6, gives the SBHE discretion to allow incoming, out-of-system presidents to keep the tenure they had previously earned at another institution. Presidents would get the tenure if they decided to return to the classroom and teach after being in a leadership position.

If there were issues with that tenured president, the SBHE could reconsider the privilege before the president transitioned into a teaching or departmental role.

The change allowed the board to unanimously award tenure to Mayville State University President Brian Van Horn and Dickinson State University President Tom Mitzel. Van Horn took over as president at Mayville in July. Mitzel has been president at DSU since December 2015.

“As somebody who’s come a long way to get to a place that I absolutely love, I appreciate the vote of confidence and the respect that was shown through this process,” Van Horn said.

WDAY logo
listen live
watch live

Mitzel said he was “grateful” the tenure that the two presidents had earned at their previous institutions was awarded to them again.

“Tenure is not to be taken lightly,” he said. “It is a very long road to receive tenure, and I think it speaks to the strength of the NDUS system itself that two of us were willing originally to give up that tenure to join the system.”

The policy came up during the SBHE’s October meeting and was tabled so members could discuss the issue further with faculty who were against the measure.

Birgit Pruess, who serves as a nonvoting member of the board representing faculty across the system, read a letter from the Council of College Faculty regarding the change during the meeting. Pruess said faculty still had concerns about the potential financial impact the policy would have, among other concerns expressed previously.

During the last meeting, Council of College Faculty President Debora Dragseth said faculty also were concerned whether a university president, who may have been out of the field for several years, would be ready to teach in an ever-changing environment.

Speaking as a board member, Pruess said she understands the different wants and needs of stakeholders on the issue.

“I think that a person who is a president of an institution, of a campus, has been vetted so many times,” Board Chair Don Morton said, particularly when that individual was a faculty member or started off somewhere else in administration.