Higher ed subcommittees address Title IX change, sign off on projects

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Sep. 21—A subcommittee of the North Dakota State Board of Higher Education struck a portion of its Title IX policy, after an out-of-state court case invalidated it.

Members of the academic and student affairs committee met on Tuesday, Sept. 21, a day of multiple subcommittee meetings, to remove the language from the policy and handle other matters. The particular section that was removed deals with cross examining a witness in a sexual harassment case.

According to Eric Olson, general counsel for the SBHE, a Massachusetts court ruled in July that the section in question is "arbitrary and capricious," after a lawsuit was filed by Title IX advocates. Olson said the U.S. Department of Education announced it would not appeal the ruling. Due to that court case, the SBHE now needs to amend that section of its policy.

"As a result, we find ourselves in a position where our policy conflicts with the regulations as enforced by the Department of Education," Olson said.

Subcommittee members moved to strike a paragraph from the policy, which covers schools in the North Dakota University System. Olson said he is working with UND's Title IX staff to draft new language for the policy. Board members will hear that new section at a meeting in October.

In the interim, universities in the state will need to rely on their legal representatives as to how to conduct cross examination of witnesses in sexual harassment hearings.

The Academic and Student Affairs Committee also approved the creation of a graduate certificate in software engineering at UND, as well as tenure for two professors, one at UND and the other at North Dakota State University.

Sanjay Goel, a professor at UND's Middleton School of Entrepreneurship and Management, was approved for tenure as was Colleen Fitzgerald, an English professor at North Dakota State. Goel has been a professor at UND for 15 years.

As with all of Tuesday's agenda items, ASAC members voted unanimously for the professors' tenure applications.

"Motion approved and congratulations to those two faculty," said committee chair Jill Louters.

The committee also moved to standardize how NDUS schools report enrollment for summer semesters. The committee moved to update its enrollment reporting policy to align with financial aid and National Student Clearing House guidelines. Beginning in October, a full-time undergraduate student will be defined as being enrolled in at least 12 academic credits. Full-time graduate students will be defined as being enrolled in six or more credits.

Also meeting on Tuesday was the Budget and Finance Committee, which addressed a number of routine housekeeping measures, namely cleaning up the language in several policies, deleting old dates and making a few clarifications. One of those clarifications creates a deferred payment plan for students. The plan allows for 12 payments and is not to exceed one year.

BFC members also signed off on a number of projects at universities in North Dakota. Dakota College at Bottineau was given permission to issue up to $2.5 million in revenue bonds to build a dining facility on campus. Dickinson State University was also allowed to increase the construction budget of a building from $4,284,500 to $4,609,000.

At NDSU, committee members OK'd a $2.4 million renovation of Ladd Hall, and authorized the university to officially begin fundraising for a new performing arts building. School administrators said the project will cost an estimated $45 million.

NDSU was also given permission to rename the Agricultural Products Development Center in honor of an anonymous donor. The donor's name and the official name of the facility will be released in conjunction with the full SBHE meeting on Sept. 30.

Committee members also approved of a reduction in what it costs to administer the NDUS retirement plan. TIAA, the record keeper of that plan, said it can reduce it's pricing for the plan's administration due to increased plan efficiencies and technology. Members also approved returning 90% of nearly $300,000 to plan participants, on a pro rata basis. The money comes from excess revenue generated by the plan.

The retirement fund oversight committee was also directed to prepare a due-diligence report on how the plan is being administered, and if it is receiving the correct services.

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