Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Magical Thinking

The high-level duo of Tom Ross and Margaret Spellings, co-chairs last year of the Governor’s Commission on the Governance of Public Universities in North Carolina, issued some eight months ago a 153-page set of recommendations for reforming the way the university system is governed. Both Tom Ross and Margaret Spellings are past presidents of the UNC system, hounded out of office, incidentally, by increasingly conservative boards of governors put in place by the Republican bosses in the General Assembly. Turns out, of course, that their recommendations for reform to remove partisanship and increase diversity were akin to pissing into the wind. To suggest that the politicians should stay the hell away from boards of trustees and governors, when they had only just recently won enough control to punish the liberals in the classrooms -- that idea was dead abirthing. Increase diversity? Ross and Spellings actually used that word, which to Christian conservatives is evidence of a plot to turn every kid gay. So the Commission report disappeared from off the earth.

So it's nice to hear that Ross and Spellings brought the whole topic up again. They talked about the dangers of vindictive partisanship in our colleges and universities during an online discussion organized by the nonprofit Coalition for Carolina. Then Joe Killian, writing about the on-line conversation for the NC Newsline, brought it to my attention.

Killian republished the Ross/Spellings report’s top-line recommendations (which get better toward the bottom):

Expand the UNC Board of Governors from 24 to 36 members – with 32 of them appointed and four standing members

Expand each campus board of trustees to 15 members

Allow the minority party of the General Assembly to appoint eight seats on the UNC Board of Governors

Reserve four seats on the board of governors and campus boards of trustees for the chairs of the faculty and staff assemblies

Mandate 16 of the board of governors’ members be appointed from eight designated parts of the state to promote geographic diversity on the board; the other 16 would be appointed at-large

Institute a one year “cooling off” period between serving in the General Assembly or being an active lobbyist and serving on the board of governors or a board of trustees

Create a new “Center for Higher Education” which would monitor the UNC Board of Governors and maintain a database of well-qualified candidates for appointment to the boards

The ruthlessness of the conservatives toward higher education -- when it's coupled in any way with progressive advocacy -- came to full flower in 2015 with the punishment of Gene Nichol, a distinguished faculty member in the Chapel Hill School of Law and past President of William and Mary College and a consistent critic of the Republican super-majority in the General Assembly. It's almost Putinesque how they targeted Nichol with specific poison pain, took away his Center for Poverty, Work, and Opportunity -- just shut it down because some politicos complained that Nichol was actively helping the poor with some kind of legal aide.

The conservatives are on a jihad to stamp out liberalism in higher education. They don't need no recommendations from over-educated bureaucrats.

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