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Pioneer Cheers & Jeers for April 9

Include stakeholders in NTC discussion

A proposal to study reorganizing Northwest Technical College as a fourth college at Bemidji State University raises plenty of questions.

The study, initiated by BSU President Richard Hanson, casts doubt on NTC’s future, the educational opportunities for its students and the institution’s role in the community. It also raises questions about process and transparency.

An April 3 memo from Hanson to BSU’s faculty association spells out “assumptions and facts” while outlining a four-part plan to assess NTC’s future.

In the memo, Hanson said the “financial health of NTC is soft and the institution is underperforming.”

Coincidentally, the memo was delivered the same day university leaders hosted a focus group with educators and business leaders to garner input about a new strategic plan, a focus which includes improving connections between the university and communities. Northwest Tech’s future was not a discussion point.

BSU’s strategic plan and a study about NTC’s viability appear to be intertwined. The public wouldn’t have known about the simultaneous discussions had the media not obtained a copy of the NTC documents.

According to meeting minutes from last week, Thomas Frauchald, treasurer of BSU’s faculty association, asked for a “process that is transparent.”

Moving forward, dialogue about NTC’s future should include a variety of stakeholders, including students, faculty and at-large members of the community, which has been served by the college for nearly 50 years.

Touchy topics

Local lawmakers gathered Saturday afternoon in Bemidji for a town hall meeting with constituents.

At least four dozen people attended the meeting, which saw DFL Sens. Roger Skoe of Clearbrook and Tom Saxhaug of Grand Rapids, along with Rep. John Persell, DFL-Bemidji, address a variety of topics.

Town hall meetings, which some lawmakers shied away from just a few years ago, can put elected officials on the defensive.

Local representatives, though, tackled controversial subjects – including gay marriage and a proposed hospitality tax for Bemidji – with tact and professionalism, proving the meetings can be a forum for robust, healthy debate.

— Bemidji Pioneer Editorial Board