Much of the turmoil in North Dakota’s university system in recent years has been a product of the struggle by the State Board of Higher Education, and the Legislature, to get the state’s 11 public campuses to work together as a unified system.

The NDUS is addled by parochialism, particularly at the largest institutions in Fargo and Grand Forks where arrogant administrators backed by powerful alumni and large hometown legislative delegations have consistently defied unity efforts.

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Fargo wants to do what’s best for Fargo. Grand Forks wants what’s best for Grand Forks. Little concern is given for what might be best for the higher education needs of the whole state.

I’ve long felt that one possible way to address this problem was a change in governance structure. The current State Board of Higher Education, which is tasked with overseeing the NDUS, is appointed by the governor. But the governor is bizarrely restrained in his control over this board. He can only pick members from a list of candidates provided to him by others, and once appointed SBHE members cannot be removed by the governor.

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