Did The Plot Against Hamid Shirvani Backfire?


Yesterday the Senate passed an amended version of HCR3047, and today the House agreed to those amendments on a 55-34 vote (after about 45 minutes of debate).

As I wrote yesterday, the resolution:

A) Replaces the State Board of Higher Education and the Chancellor position with a 3-member panel appointed in the same manner that members of the existing board are appointed.

B) Two of the members must, respectively, have business experience and higher education experience. There are no requirements for the third member. Each member serves four year terms, with a three-term cap.

C) Unlike the existing governance structure of higher education, which sets the university system apart from the rest of state government as a sort of fourth branch, this resolution explicitly states that the university system is subject to statutory limitations put in place by the legislature.

D) The legislature has the authority to also form an advisory council with faculty and student representatives.

The question now is, how hard with the university system fight this? And will they win?

What’s interesting is that this legislative session has been dominated, in many ways, by a civil war in the university system between a group of university presidents and Chancellor Hamid Shirvani, hired by the board. In picking the fight with Shirvani, I believe the university presidents were hoping to push the reform-minded chancellor out and get him placed with something more akin to previous Chancellor Bill Goetz, who was little more than a rubber stamp for the universities.

But that plan may have backfired, creating so much chaos in the university system and legislators finally saw the need to reform the way the system is governed up to and including ended the oft-touted “independence” of the system, which has done little but promote out-of-control spending and institutional arrogance.

The university presidents may still win their battle against Shirvani, but in doing so they may have lost the war.