The third time was a charm for higher ed reform in the state Senate today. After an amended version of a resolution to eliminate the State Board of Higher Education and the Chancellor position was defeated in the Senate, it passed today on its second reconsideration.
The vote was pretty narrow – 25 to 21 – but it’s still a remarkable step for the legislature.
You can read the amended version of the resolution here. Briefly it:
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.
This isn’t perfect. I like idea of a single appointed Chancellor governing the system as opposed to a three-person panel. But making clear in the constitution that the university system is subservient to the elected leaders of our legislature is an important step in the right direction.
If the House concurs to the Senate version of this bill, and if the voters approve it, all we’ll need is to start electing some legislators with backbone to stand up to the powerful alliance of university presidents, alumni and sympathetic college-town media.