By Anna Burleson
Forum News Service
GRAND FORKS, N.D. — Concerned legislators, citizens and civic leaders have come together and formed a group aiming to defeat a proposed constitutional amendment that would restructure the North Dakota State Board of Higher Education.
The 11 members of the Citizens for Higher Education plan to work through the media to inform the public that the 11 institutions overseen by the SBHE are in danger of losing accreditation if voters pass Measure 3 in November.
The measure seeks to disband the current board and replace it with an appointed three-person commission. Opponents worry the new structure could prompt a national agency to pull the North Dakota University System’s accreditation.
“There isn’t any question that the Higher Learning Commission has a process and procedure that will be triggered in the unfortunate event that this measure passes and no proponent can predict with any certainty the outcome of that process,” group member and Dickinson attorney Paul Ebeltoft said.
The HLC, an accreditation agency for post-secondary educational institutions, issued a report in September stating it “challenges the imagination to envision how the proposed commission structure will provide commission members the autonomy to lead University System institutions with the welfare of each institution’s students, faculty, staff and the communities that each serve, as the foremost consideration in the judgments that they would be called upon to make.”
SBHE Chairwoman Kirsten Diederich said it’s important to keep student success in mind.
“I appreciate North Dakotans really thinking through what the repercussions could be if this passes,” she said.
Ebeltoft said Measure 3 poses a threat to autonomy and changing the way some institutions are specifically named in the current state constitution also threatens the well-being of the state and the students who live here.
“The proponents would like us to all believe this isn’t much of a deal, we’re going to get rid of all the upset we’ve had with the SBHE over time, and we will join hands and walking to a beautiful rosy sunset of this three-member commission and everything will be fine, Ebeltoft said. “But if it really isn’t much of a change and it really isn’t a big deal, I think every voter should ask, why take any risk?”
On the Web: More information about the group can be found at nomeasure3.com.