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North Dakota Commission of Higher Education Amendment, Measure 3 (2014)

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Measure 3
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Type:Constitutional amendment
Constitution:Article VIII
Referred by:North Dakota Legislature
Status:Defeated Defeatedd
2014 measures
Seal of North Dakota.png
June 10
Measure 1Approveda
November 4
Measure 1 Defeatedd
Measure 2 Approveda
Measure 3 Defeatedd
Measure 4 Defeatedd
Measure 5 Defeatedd
Measure 6 Defeatedd
Measure 7 Defeatedd
Measure 8 Defeatedd

The North Dakota Commission of Higher Education Amendment, Measure 3 was on the November 4, 2014 ballot in the state of North Dakota as a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment, where it was defeated. The measure, upon voter approval, would have eliminated the part-time, eight-member board of higher education and chancellor's office and, in lieu, created an appointed, full-time and paid three-member commission of higher education to oversee and administer all public higher education in the state.[1]

The three-member commission would have been appointed by the North Dakota Governor, and each member would have served a four-year term. The governor's appointments would have come from a list of nominees agreed upon by the Speaker of the House, President Pro Tem of the Senate, Superintendent of Public Instruction, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and an education interest group representative selected by at least three of the four aforementioned individuals.[1]

The North Dakota Governor would have been required to appoint at least one commissioner with leadership experience in a private sector business, industry, or service, and at least one commissioner holding a professional position within the higher education sector.[1]

The amendment was introduced into the North Dakota Legislature as House Concurrent Resolution 3047.[1]

Election results

North Dakota Measure 3
Defeatedd No182,49274.95%
Yes 61,007 25.05%

Election results via: North Dakota Secretary of State Office

Text of measure

Ballot title

The official ballot text was as follows:[2]

Constitutional Measure No. 3
(House Concurrent Resolution No. 3047, 2013 Session Laws, Ch. 521)

This constitutional measure would create and enact a new section to Article VIII of the North Dakota Constitution creating a three-member commission of higher education, effective July 1, 2015, with full executive responsibility for the management and operation of the North Dakota university system. The measure would repeal Section 6 of Article VIII of the Constitution relating to the current eight-member state board of higher education. Members of the new commission would be appointed by the Governor to four year terms from a list of nominees provided by a special committee, and would be subject to confirmation by the Senate. One of the commissioners must possess leadership experience in a private sector business, industry, or service and one member, at the time of appointment, must hold a professional position within the higher education sector. The commissioners could be reappointed to three consecutive terms.

YES - means you approve the measure summarized above.

NO - means you reject the measure summarized above. [3]

Constitutional changes

North Dakota Constitution
Flag of North Dakota.png
See also: Article VIII, North Dakota Constitution

If approved, Measure 3 would have repealed and replaced Section 6 of Article VIII of the Constitution of North Dakota with a new section. The new section would have read as follows:[1]

1. A three-member commission of higher education is created for the purpose of overseeing and administering the provision of public higher education at sites that include Bismarck, Bottineau, Devils Lake, Dickinson, Fargo, Grand Forks, Mayville, Minot, Valley City, Wahpeton, and Williston.

2. The governor shall appoint each member of the commission from a list of at least three nominees agreed to by a majority of the following:

a. The speaker of the house of representatives;
b. The president pro tempore of the senate;
c. The chief justice of the North Dakota supreme court;
d. The superintendent of public instruction; and
e. A representative of an educational interest group selected by three of the four aforementioned individuals.

3. The governor shall ensure that one member of the commission has leadership experience in a private sector business, industry, or service, and that one member, at the time of appointment, holds a professional position within the higher education sector. Each member of the commission must be confirmed by the senate.
4. The term of office for each commission member is four years, except that the initial terms must be staggered by lot so that no more than one member's term expires each year. Each term begins on July first and members may be reappointed to three consecutive terms.
5. A member of the commission is subject to removal by impeachment in the same manner as that established for the removal of the governor.
6. a. The commission has full executive responsibility for the management and operation of the North Dakota university system, within constitutional and statutory requirements and limitations.

b. The commission shall hire a president for each institution within the system and each president shall report to the commission.

7. The legislative assembly may provide for the appointment of an advisory board that includes a faculty and a student representative.[3]






Rep. Al Carlson (R-41) said arguments made against the measure were "baseless." He stated:

The debate on this issue has centered on the fact that the change in governance will cause a loss of accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission. It can be said with certainty that the opposition of the measure cannot claim that accreditation will be lost any more than the proponents say it won’t. Our Legislative Council’s research showed the following: “We could find no instance in which issues considered by the Higher Learning Commission involved university ‘system’ governance. In each instance where governance was an issue, the concerns appear to be with the governance structure of the individual institutions.”

The Legislature is very committed to our higher education system. Since 2009, we have increased spending 54.3 percent, as well as investing nearly $200 million in campus projects. Lots of great things are happening on our campuses, and that will not change with new governance. The discussion should center on the students and the taxpayers who pay for the system. Are they receiving the results they expect from the system?

The board members, past and present, should be commended for their volunteer service. Is our current governance providing the results we expect? Can a part-time board handle this $2 billion enterprise? Those are key questions.[3]

—Rep. Al Carlson[5]


North Dakota Students Against Measure 3 2014.jpg

The campaign against the amendment was led by Students Against Measure 3.[6]



Lloyd Omdahl, a columnist for The Forum of Fargo‑Moorhead, argued that the measure "undermines deliberation and participation." He stated:

When it comes to deliberation, eight heads are better than three; when it comes to responsiveness, eight contact points are better than three.

The Board of Higher Education must be responsive to a wide range of constituencies. These include legislators, parents, students, alumni, university administrators, faculty, chambers of commerce and taxpayers. All of them have a major stake in higher education, and they deserve to be heard in the policy process.

Measure 3 proposes one commissioner to represent business and one to represent higher education, and a third at-large. That’s pretty narrow representation for the wide range of constituencies involved in higher education.

Because the objectives of these constituencies are not always in harmony, the board is required to spend considerable time negotiating policy differences. A three-member full-time management commission would provide less negotiating and more mandating…

The fact is, North Dakota doesn’t tolerate autocratic management. This is clearly indicated by the structure of our state and local governments. It is a system that values participation over management so everybody can have a “say.” [3]

—Lloyd Omdahl[8]

Other arguments against the amendment included:

  • Sen. Mac Schneider (D-42) expressed concerns that the measure might limit academic freedom. Part of the amendment read, “[the board] shall have full authority over the institutions under its control with the right, among its other powers, to prescribe, limit, or modify the courses offered at the several institutions.”[7]
  • Sen. Connie Triplett (D-18) argued that the amendment may disempower university presidents. She said, “I think (board members) perceive, rightly, that their job is to set general broad policies for the institution. My concern is that if you got three full-time people… that they’re going to effectively run the institutions and there won’t be any space left for institutional presidents.”[7]

Campaign contributions

Opponents had received $1,600 in contributions as of December 3, 2014.[9]

PAC info:

PAC Amount raised Amount spent
Students Against Measure 3 $1,600 $0
Total $1,600 $0

Top contributors:

Donor Amount
Steven Perdue $1,000
Devin Hoffarth $500

Media editorial positions

See also: Endorsements of North Dakota ballot measures, 2014


  • Grand Forks Herald said, "But if the amendment passes in November, the links in the anchor chains would be changed into paper clips. For the new language simply lists 11 communities and says they’ll be home to higher ed 'sites.' So, what exactly is a 'site'? Well, it could be a traditional campus, as can be found in each of those 11 communities today. But could it instead be a stand-alone warehouse owned by the university system? Or a storefront? Or Room 4B in an office complex — with no college campus at all?... This year’s debate mostly will be about replacing the higher-education board. But that isn’t all it should be about, and North Dakota voters should know that there’s more to the higher-ed amendment than meets the eye."[10]
  • Williston Herald said, "Measure 3 is potentially dangerous in too many ways to the North Dakota higher education system. A professional-based committee, derived from a political power grab by an increasingly power-hungry Legislature is the wrong way to go when dealing with education, a crucial engine for the future of North Dakota."[11]


Education policy logo.jpg
Policy and Elections
Education policy was a major issue in North Dakota. Find out more about North Dakota Education policy.


The Higher Learning Commission (HLC) is a an "accreditation agency for post-secondary educational institutions in the north-central United States."[12] HLC is responsible for accrediting schools in North Dakota. Barbara Gellman-Danley, president of the commission, wrote a letter to Larry Skogen, the chancellor of the North Dakota University System, detailing the commission's response to Measure 3.

Gellman-Danley wrote to Chancellor Skogen, saying:

It is very important that you and the public institutions in the North Dakota University System understand the enormity of what is being proposed in this Constitutional amendment. There are very few details in the language in the amendment that provide any assurance that the Commission’s requirements about governance, which represent not just the Commission’s requirements but practices recognized across higher education in the United States as effective college governance practice, will be met.


—Barbara Gellman-Danley[13]

HLC's Advisory Visit Team reviewed the constitutional amendment and expressed two concerns. The group expressed concern that a paid, three-person commission may not be able to "competently fulfill all required governance responsibilities for eleven state-supported colleges and universities distributed across the state of North Dakota." The second concern was related to commission members' autonomy. Commissioners need to be able to lead education institutes with the "welfare of each institution’s students, faculty, staff, and the communities that each serve, as the foremost consideration in the judgments that they would be called upon to make."

HLC's Advisory Visit Team found:

While the team has not identified any provision of Measure 3 that, on its face, violates current HLC accreditation standards or assumed practices, the team is concerned that there are many details related to the implementation of the Measure that, if not handled properly, could place the system’s accreditation status at risk.


—Higher Learning Commission Advisory Visit Team[13]

Path to the ballot

See also: Amending the North Dakota Constitution

According to Section 16 of Article IV of the North Dakota Constitution, the legislature had to approve the bill by a simple majority in order to place the measure on the ballot. HCR 3047 was passed by the North Dakota Senate on April 22, 2013. The bill was passed by the North Dakota House on April 23, 2013.[14]

Senate vote

April 22, 2013 Senate vote

North Dakota HCR 3047 Senate Vote
Approveda Yes 25 54.35%

House vote

April 23, 2013 House vote

North Dakota HCR 3047 House Vote
Approveda Yes 55 61.80%

See also

Suggest a link

External links