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SBHE moves forward with choosing next chancellor

GRAND FORKS, N.D. - The State Board of Higher Education delegated authority to a select few to continue defining what they want from the system's next chancellor, but the group discussed the issue at length with the entire board at a special meeting Tuesday in Bismarck.

Chairwoman Kirsten Diederich, Interim Chancellor Larry Skogen and a representative from the chancellor's cabinet will work with a group of consultants to clearly define the role of a chancellor no later than Jan. 8.

Skogen's tenure in the position is up this summer.

The board also approved a timeline that has it interviewing finalists for the chancellor position May 14, after three more board meetings and recruitment and vetting by the consulting group, AGB Search.

The board told the group's head consultant, James McCormick, they feel the current system works, it's merely a matter of finding someone who can embrace North Dakota's governance culture and be willing to push higher education forward.

SBHE member Grant Shaft said the board has seen two extremes in the past with former chancellors Hamid Shirvani and William Goetz, with Shirvani acting as too much of a filter between university presidents and the board and Goetz being "too much of a yes man."

The ideal candidate, he said, would be somewhere in the middle.

"We need to define what we see constitutionally, and that is a CEO for the State Board of Higher Ed," Shaft said. "We also need to define what we want to see for interaction with campuses and system office."

The board also heard from an advisory committee consisting of several private institution administrators, business leaders and education officials.

Advisory committee member Kirsten Baelser, the superintendent of the department of public instruction, told the board she would like to see them give the new chancellor a clear set of goals, provide feedback and then support that person in doing their job.

University of Mary President James Shea, also an advisory committee member, suggested looking at other systems to find the best way to define a chancellor's role.

"Let's see what they're doing and do better," he said.

Much of the feedback collected at open forums throughout the state over the past week has shown stakeholders are in favor of a culturally and educationally diverse chancellor who actively interacts with campuses.

At a Roles and Responsibilities Task Force meeting last week, university presidents warned board officials not to give the new chancellor too much control and task force members decided they were in favor of a governance structure that gave university presidents a documented direct line to the board.

But the board as a whole ultimately decided to keep their current structure in place, which has board presidents working with and answering to the chancellor, with an offshoot to the system office, who then answers to the board.

"The right person can make things happen no matter what sort of reporting structure we have," board member Don Morton said.

AGB consultants said they plan to actively search for qualified candidates and post the opening on several higher education publications both online and in print once they solidify a job description in January.

Other business

The board also approved a room board and fee structure for the 11 campuses it oversees.

While individual campuses will set their own rates in early 2015, campus presidents have the authority to increase room and board fees until the total increase exceeds 1 percent of a student's total cost of attending the university, at which point the president must seek board approval for an exemption.

Presidents may also do the same with regard to mandatory fee increases, which includes things like student government activity fees, technology fees, ConnectND fees, university and college fees and North Dakota Student Association fees.

The meeting was attended by university presidents and various higher education officials. It was streamed live online on the SBHE website.