Good Morning, Chairman Hacker, and members of the Board, I appreciate the opportunity to address you all today. My name is Nick Archuleta, and I am the President of ND United.
I want to begin today by expressing gratitude to this Board for two very important and recent communications. The first is the news release about launching the Smart Restart Task Force. The second, for SBHE Resolution 2020-03.
Our members in the higher education community have been waiting for an opportunity to participate fully in the development of plans that will ensure safe re-openings on each of our higher education campuses.
It is our hope that the Smart Restart Task Force, driven by the intent of SBHE Resolution 2020-03, will prove to be an effective vehicle to ensure the inclusion of faculty and staff voices in the decision making process.
The third bullet of the resolution states:
“That the SBHE encourages institution Presidents and the Chancellor to continue to involve faculty, staff, and student representatives, where practicable, in campus level committees, task forces, and /or discussions regarding the transition back to on-campus , in-person classes and activities.”
We believe that each institution of Higher Education will be better served if the inclusion of campus community voices was an expectation of the SBHE, and not merely an action to be encouraged. Our members hope that the campus Presidents, the Chancellor, and the working group chairs lean on the elected Faculty and Staff governance on each campus to play a vital role in the development of re-opening protocols. It’s true that the goal of the working groups is not to develop policy, but they will be establishing protocol. And in this case, I would argue that there is a very fine line between policy and protocol therefore , there is a lane for advocacy.
Chairman Hacker and members of the Board, our members have asked me to implore you to direct the Smart Restart Task Force to be as communicative and transparent as possible with the public and campus communities. Now is the time to over-communicate with campus and community stakeholders. We should never assume that everyone is receiving the same message at the same time.
When communication is inconsistent and/or incomplete, people are left to draw conclusions that may or may not be true. Therefore, please be sure to communicate clearly and often with the public and our campus communities. In a conversation a week or so with Chancellor Hagerott, he committed to a meeting with our Higher Education faculty and staff leaders and we very much look forward to that meeting.
Finally, Chairman Hacker and members of the Board, I agree that we cannot eliminate all risks posed by the novel Coronavirus pandemic, but if some risk must be assumed by faculty, students and staff, let that risk be mitigated to the greatest extent possible. To do so, the Smart Restart Task Force must learn of the concerns of our campus communities and work diligently and collaboratively with staff, students, and faculty to create the safe work and learning spaces they richly deserve.
Thank you for your time and commitment to higher education in North Dakota. ND United agrees with Chancellor Hagerott that now is not the time to invest less in HE, and we stand ready to advocate that position in the legislature.