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Berginski: Measure 3 pointless

By Staff | Aug 15, 2014

In Wednesday’s Fargo Forum there was an article that said the state’s Board of Higher Education is “running scared”. An outside consultant noted at a July 30 meeting several things that seem wrong with the university system: a lack of public trust, a perceived lack of accountability between the board and college presidents, and a perceived lack of leadership from the nine-member board.

Come November, if approved by voters, Measure 3 would supposedly change all that, as it would whittle the nine-member board down to a three-member commission appointed by the governor. (It would also take the names of colleges and universities out of the state constitution, but I’m sure we all know by now where Minot State, Mayville State and NDSU are, don’t we?)

On the surface, Measure 3 sounds like a great idea. The fellas in charge of our state’s colleges and universities have to be accountable to somebody, since we’re basically telling them, “Here’s my kid, and my money. Take them, please.” The appointees to this new board would be subject to legislative scrutiny, and at least one of them would have to have professional experience in higher ed. There’s no shortage of leaders here, and these guys would supposedly be watching over college presidents and their supposed shenanigans.

But if one problem persists, simply changing the number of members on the board and how they get on it is pointless.

“You can’t trust anybody with power.” – Newt Gingrich

“Trust is something that is difficult to establish. It is very fragile that needs to be taken care of. Once trust breaks or shatters into pieces, it is very difficult to rebuild it.” – K. Cunningham

I rarely ever put whole quotes in these columns, but the above two are quite fitting. The public’s trust in the current board is shaken, and it will take a while for that to be remedied. (And this is from a guy who openly betrays people in a game of Monopoly.) However, if we voters approve Measure 3, we would put a lot of power over 11 colleges and universities in the hands of a three-member commission that doesn’t have our trust from the get-go. And heaven forbid people disagree with their decisions; if that happens they’ll never have the public’s trust.

Without public trust, the key component of Measure 3 would be a fool’s errand.

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