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Board of Higher Education again looking at tenure for college presidents

The state Board of Higher Education is again discussing offering tenure for new college presidents.

Board member Don Morton said the matter was discussed at the Board’s Governance Committee. He said tenure could be used as a recruiting tool.

"In this day and age of tight budgets, intense competition for talented leaders, I just think that tenure is something -- there isn't much of a cost, and it can show appreciation for our campus leaders," Morton said.

Board member Jill Louters is on that committee. She told the Board tenure should be based on academic background and experience.

"It is not, in my opinion, a perk of the position, or an incentive," Louters said. "It's a recognition of a distinguished record of teaching, and research."

The North Dakota Council of College Faculties has been on record opposing granting tenure to the presidents as a recruiting tool.

"There is a cost," said faculty representative Dr. Deborah Dragseth of Dickinson State University. "That would be related to faculty morale. People who have worked their way for tenure, and tenure has a lot of weight for them."

University System Chancellor Mark Hagerott said this was not initated by the current Presidents' Cabinet. But he told the board tenure was important in recruiting some of the current presidents. But he said in those cases, they had the academic background to support tenure, and would easily be able to go back into the classroom.

"So Chancellor -- are you saying a president wouldn't be a good teacher, if he hadn't gone through the faculty tenure process?" Morton asked.

"I'm just saying, having been a faculty member myself -- and I had considered a tenured track at my previous college -- there's 1,000 years of tradition in teaching, and the teaching profession has high standards," Hagerott said. "There are lost of non-traditional presidents, who have been chief financial officers, political leaders -- but have never proven themselves in a classroom."

Morton said most Presidents have a "terminal degree."

"They're bright people," Morton said. "Chances are they're life-long learners, and can bring a great new perspective."

Hagerott said you don't have to have tenure to teach.

"Tenure comes from a lifetime commitment," Hagerott said.

Board chairman Nick Hacker said half of the current Presidents are tenured, and were awarded tenure when they were hired.

"It was highly valuable to them," Hacker said.

The Board will look at the issue again at its June meeting.

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