Monday, February 09, 2009
NDPC Investigates by Jacqueline Dotzenrod
Issue: Government Transparency
The case the North Dakota University System makes for closing records in presidential searches appears to be an attempt to fix a problem that does not exist.
SB 2087, put forth by the State Board of Higher Education, exempts records that would identify an individual applying for employment as the president of a state university or college from open records law. The bill passed in the Senate with a 30-15 vote last week. The House Education Committee will hold its hearing on the bill this week.
“It evolved out of having gone through quite a number of searches for new presidents recently and some of the challenges that we have faced,” North Dakota University System Chancellor Bill Goetz said. “It definitely has been a factor that individuals do not enter into the search process (because of this law).”
Goetz claims fewer qualified individuals are willing to apply because of the open records law.
However, the North Dakota University System has had no shortage of applicants for the presidential positions it has had open in the last three years.
“That’s not the point,” Goetz adds. “The point is that you want to make sure you have a pool of candidates that are professionally prepared and have experience to take up the presidency.”
In the six most recent presidential searches, 28 of the applicants were either sitting presidents at the time or had past presidential experience.
The North Dakota Newspaper Association has come out in opposition to the bill.
“We’re opposed to any erosion of North Dakota’s open records laws. We view this as a potential first step in erosion of that law,” NDNA Executive Director Roger Bailey said. “Even though it has passed in the senate committee and on the senate floor, we’ve been given some hope with the significant amount of opposition we saw on the Senate floor.”
The NDNA also believes the SBHE has yet to produce any proof it has not been able to attract quality candidates. “If in fact they feel that way, they’re repudiating their own choices of the several presidents they just appointed in recent months including the chancellor himself,” Bailey added. “We think they’re all good people and the Board of Higher Ed seems to be giving them an under-handed slap saying they didn’t have enough good candidates to choose from.”