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UND Student Senate votes to tables no-confidence vote until Sunday

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GRAND FORKS -- The University of North Dakota Student Senate voted to table a resolution of no-confidence for university President Robert Kelley and three other high level administrators until the senate’s next meeting Sunday.

  Discussion was intense at a well-attended, three and a half hour emergency UND Student Senate meeting Thursday night that was still in progress at press time.

The resolution accused Kelley, Vice President for Student Affairs Lori Reesor, Vice President for Academic Affairs Thomas DiLorenzo and Vice President for Finance and Operations Alice Brekke of not being transparent in regard to draft tuition model proposals presented to students in March.

The resolution was amended to exclude a line that stated alleged actions by the university administration shed a corrupt light on the school. Brekke, Kelley and Reesor addressed the Student Senate at its meeting Thursday night, refuting the resolution’s claims.

"What I'm working to understand how the leadership of our students, with whom we work daily … can make the allegations contained in this resolution,” Kelley said.

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Two of the three draft tuition model proposals would have increased tuition by either 10.5 percent or 12.3 percent over current rates for students enrolling in 15 credits, while a third option did not have dollar figures listed. The university was considering implementation as early as fall 2016, though discussions have since halted at the direction of State Board of Higher Education Interim Chancellor Larry Skogen.

“We’re waiting for direction from the board,” Brekke said.

The senate did pass a resolution opposing the two draft models as well as one outlining goals students would like to see in tuition models moving forward.

The no-confidence resolution claimed administrators withheld information about program and course fees from the initial discussion with students. It also asked for their resignations.

But Kelley and Reesor both alleged UND Student Body President Tanner Franklin, who spearheaded the resolution, had not been present for several opportunities to discuss the tuition models and had in fact turned down personal invitations to meet one-on-one.

“This lack of transparency and willingness to listen to students has happened on prior occasions including the social host ordinance, academic advising concerns, and previous tuition cap discussions,” the resolution states.

But all three administrators who spoke insisted they had been as transparent as possible.
“My administration has neither misrepresented nor hid info from you,” Kelley said. “Quite the opposite. By the direction of SBHE and chancellor, the university has gone the second mile … to be open, transparent and honest."

Further discussion

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Student Government posted a petition on change.org Thursday afternoon asking for support of a vote of no confidence for Kelley and the three other administors, which gained more than 1,000 signatures in a matter of hours, though many of them referenced the president’s decision to move on from the school’s former Fighting Sioux nickname.

"Corruption continues with our current administration," the petition stated. "It has now become necessary for a change to take place at the University of North Dakota."

Staff Senate President Sharley Kurtz and University Senate Chairwoman Melissa Gjellstad said both of their respective groups were against the vote of no-confidence. Gjellstad said Franklin hasn’t attended several meetings where he could have expressed his issues with the tuition models, including the university’s Senate Executive Committee.

About five students stood at the back of the meeting holding signs in protest, stating the meeting itself was held illegally, as the senate’s bylaws state the group must give 24-hour public notice for any public meeting. A response to this issue was not given at the meeting by press time.
“I just want an opportunity to review both sides of what is being presented here tonight,” said UND student Collin Hanson, one of the protesters.

Reesor and Kelley both expressed frustration with the suddenness of the no-confidence resolution.

"I'm sad today,” Reesor said. “Having to defend our integrity in response to concerns in this hostile manner is deplorable."

The petition can be accessed at  http://chn.ge/1OjpvCH .

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University of North Dakota President Robert Kelley. Forum News Service

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