If you want to crash an airplane maybe you lock a pilot out of the cockpit. If you have an ideological agenda for a public university maybe you fire its leader without any transparent process or clear justification. That’s what almost happened a while ago to Teresa Sullivan at the University of Virginia. Students and faculty rallied and the dismissal did not work. It did work a few months ago when the Board of Governors of the University of North Carolina statewide system decided to force its president, Tom Ross, to retire. Again there was no careful or transparent process. Another Republican dominated board just let him go. Faculty and students grumbled but there was no effective protest. Who knows what sort of appointment will be made as his replacement?
Now it’s Mississippi’s turn. Alan Blinder reports that 2,500 students have protested the board’s decision not to oust te Chancellor Daniel W. Jones. Again there was no transparent process and no clear reasons given.
Conspiracy theories come immediately to mind – the master hand of a right -wing think tank , for example. But that’s too easy. My suspicion is that the problem is deeper than that. Why, after all, would such a master plan for locking the pilot out of the cockpit have enough appeal to result in these destructive board actions? The answer has to be that two conflicting views of education are at work, a traditional one represented by the targeted heads of institutions, and another that distrusts the whole enterprise, and tolerates it only in so far as a rigorous cost benefit analysis makes some support for higher education inescapable.
PS Friends point out that I omitted the situation n Alabama and that the UK has seen a similar pattern. Then there is Texas, always the big one. A friend writes: "
You left out the biggest example of this chain of purges which began at UT-Austin, where the Regents, all appointed by Rick Perry, clearly wanted to be rid of Bill Powers, president of UT-Austin. He was given the same one-year parachute that Tom Ross was given. The real test of this theory for NC will be in the kind of individual chosen to lead the UNC system. One can hope that reasonable heads will prevail. "
Yes, I hope but don't aske to bet.