A lot of North Dakota residents were probably surprised, as I was, recently by Gov. Doug Burgum's Burgum’s Higher Ed Task Force recommendation of a ‘new & improved’ method of governing the 11 institutions of higher education in our state.
As Lloyd Omdahl constantly points out in his epistles, North Dakota has more boards and commissions than any other state in the union. As a classic case of a “solution in search of a problem,” our elected officials want to create three new boards and who knows how many sub-committees, task forces, etc., under those new boards. Voters should do the math on this idea. The idea is to eliminate the current Board of Higher Education with eight voting members and replace it with three new boards with a grand total of 38 members. The last time I checked, 32 is more than 8, and getting 32 members to all pull in the same direction is an exercise in futility. Wow, talk about reducing government.
Our governor says these new boards will be “...more nimble.” He goes onto say “When you can put governing board members closer to the leadership of any institution, then you're going to have more accountability, you're going to have better-informed board members.”
He neglects what will happen when you appoint 12 members of a board tasked with governing either the University of North Dakota or North Dakota State University. Common sense and experience tells us it will be more of a cheer team than a governing board.
The worst thing that can happen to a governing board is when they only represent one interest, which is inevitable when they are only responsible for that one institution. During the past 50+ years, I have served on a variety of boards both private and governmental in three different states. Often a board member forgets they have a responsibility to do what is best for the entire area served by that board. By creating this new method of governing, the state would be creating two boards that have only one responsibility; to get all they can for “their team,” at the expense of all others. Taxpayers would do well to remember the infighting of legislative sessions past as higher ed facilities fought over the funds available.
One other closing comment, the news story also advises “The task force's would also allow residents of other states to serve on the boards, something that's not currently allowed under the constitution.” That is sure to make sense to taxpaying residents of North Dakota, not only to quadruple plus the number of governing board members (figure the per diem on that), but allow non-residents to visit our beautiful state all-expenses-paid trip from Anywhere, USA, for meetings!
It just might be time to visit with your local state legislator before they travel to Bismarck for the upcoming session. Hopefully it's not too late to nip this foolishness in the “bud.”