Despite backing from several university presidents, despite a vote of no confidence from organizations representing the state’s college students, Senator Tony Grindberg much-debated amendment to the university system budget to buy out Chancellor Hamid Shirvani’s contract and send him packing failed on a 23-24 vote.
The buy out would have cost taxpayers $854,520.
Here’s the video:
The amendment stopped short of ordering the State Board of Higher Education to fire Shirvani. Grindberg’s amendment, if adopted, would have merely provided the funds for his departure. Given that the SBHE’s leadership (if not the full board) is backing Shirvani, the appropriation would have been symbolic at best. The bill “doesn’t say they have to fire him or don’t have to fire him,” said Senator Anderson on the floor pointing out that if the board doesn’t use the funds they get put back into the general fund.
But half of the state Senate’s members voting for the buy out sends a pretty strong message too.
What carried the day seemed to be Senator Holmberg’s argument that the legislature doesn’t get to pick and choose who the chancellor is. That’s a fair point, but as I wrote earlier today I’m not sure it matters who the chancellor is. Anyone on the SBHE, or in the chancellor’s position, who attempts to govern the university system in a manner that isn’t deferential to the university presidents is going to be undermined.
We aren’t going to fix what ails the university system – and to be clear, the university system has a lot of problems – until we change the way the university system is governed.
In related news, there is a constitutional amendment just introduced (HCR3042) which will do that. Stay tuned.