On April 6th, the Council of College Faculties President, Kenneth Hellevang, and the Faculty Representative to the ND State Board of Higher Education, Liz Legerski, launched a petition in opposition to the SB 2030 Amendments.
The North Dakota Senate Bill 2030 provides funding to higher education in the form of student scholarships at North Dakota University System institutions through the Challenge Fund Grant. The program provides $1 for every $2 raised by the institutions. This bill originally was a non-political program that helped students financially.
Recently, on February 18, 2021, and April 5, 2021, two amendments were added to the SB 2030 on the Senate floor and in the House Appropriations Committee. The first amendment attached offered the scholarship program to the University of Mary, in Bismark, and the University of Jamestown access to the program.
The second amendment includes an “eligibility clause and $2.8 million penalty for any NDUS institutions that partner with or provide a federal grant sub-award to an individual or organization that performs an abortion (unless the abortion is necessary to prevent the death of the woman) or sponsors “any program producing, distributing, publishing, disseminating, endorsing, or approving materials of any type of from any organization, that between normal childbirth and abortion, do not give preference encouragement, and support to normal childbirth.”.
This amendment threatens the non-political aspect of SB 2030 and prevents certain individuals from accessing grant opportunities on account of decisions that they may have made in the past in their personal and private lives. The petition launched by Hellevang and Legerski asks the “state Representative, Senators, and the members of the conference committee working on this bill to reject these and any other amendments that threaten academic freedom and the student educational opportunities”.
Although UND and student ambassadors are not taking any stance on abortion, they feel that student scholarships are not an appropriate place for a political debate. The North Dakota Student Association President, Gracie Lian of UND, spoke to the Dickensen Press about the situation last month: “Turning higher education political is so dangerous to affecting the education of students. I think that one of the biggest things that higher education provides is critical thinking, the ability to explore different ideas and from different viewpoints as well as be exposed to different viewpoints. And as soon as you tie political funding to something or you start instituting more political policies, that freedom gets challenged.” Speaking on an assumption about the student body, Lian added, “Using higher education as a pawn to further any political agenda, I think all students vehemently oppose”.
Hellevang and Legerksi’s petition is available to all members of UND and can be made available by request if you have an opinion on the amendment.
Brooke Kruger is a Dakota Student Opinion Writer. She can be reached at [email protected]