/College board, universities remain vital as wave of leadership changes hits

College board, universities remain vital as wave of leadership changes hits

Mississippi’s higher education system is in flux according to non-profit Mississippi News. The past year has seen half of the university presidents and a third of those on the board overseeing them as well as the Commissioner for Higher Education, all of whom have left their positions. In May 2017, William B. Bynum, despite strong opposition from alumni and students, was elected president of Jackson State University. Bynum was the president of Mississippi Valley State University at the time he was selected to lead JSU. He was removed leaving an open position for MSVU president. Jerryl Briggs (ex-executive vice president and chief operational officer at the university) was selected to fill that role. Three months after Briggs was appointed, Jim Borsig, the former president of Mississippi University for Women, announced his retirement in January. Glenn Boyce (the former Commissioner for Higher Education) also announced his retirement in February. In March, Nora Miller was appointed interim president of MUW. Since 2001, she has been a member of the W staff. She currently serves as the Senior Vice President for Administration & Chief Financial Officer at the university. Al Rankins, Alcorn State University president, was appointed Commissioner of Higher Education the day after she was appointed. Alcorn has yet to choose an interim president. While it is normal and expected for leadership to change, there is also the possibility of instability that can arise from such a transition. “I believe that changing characters constantly can cause you to lose your continuity. Not that the chancellor or president are the key persons, but it symbolically symbolizes the stability and continuity at a university. Robert Khayat was the University of Mississippi’s chancellor from 1994 to 2009. This is all happening in a year when four of the twelve members of the Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning were out of office. Governor Phil Bryant appointed the new trustees. Phil Bryant will be sitting at the May board meeting. Their appointment to the board marks the first time that all 12 members have been appointed by one sitting governor in state history. This is important I think we haven’t realized the importance of higher education in getting us to where we are today. Although our schools aren’t what they should be, higher education is working hard to give teachers and administrators the tools to make them better. Aubrey Lucas, who was president of Delta State University between 1971 and 1975 and president of University of Southern Mississippi 1975 to 1996, said that “business and industry are not growing as quickly as we would like them to.” A key aspect of a state’s potential business investment is the percentage of its population with a college degree. Industries can use the research equipment of universities for testing. Higher education institutions are often seen as a hub where solutions to social problems can easily be found and pursued. The impact of a university on a state is theoretically unlimited. The IHL Board of Trustees is responsible for ensuring that this impact is implemented. It can approve decisions as simple as changing the name a university program or building a multimillion-dollar hospital. It ensures that every university is given fair funding, both through lobbying the legislature and allocating funds. You fight for the reasons that Ole Miss and Mississippi State grow and have national responsibilities as well as regional responsibilities. So you fight for their resources which are obviously at a higher competitive level. Boyce said that he could fight just as hard for the Delta States, the Ws and Valleys of this world for their regional impact and what it means to Mississippi. Boyce considers this one of its most important functions. The board is responsible for selecting the best president to lead and guide the university. This is as important as governance. To attract top talent and convince them to move to the state, you need to create a pool of talent. You also need to make sure that they understand Mississippi and the culture there. They understand the university they will be leading and have a vision. The combination of the complex and vital responsibilities that IHL board members have to perform, as well as the history of higher education in Mississippi has led some to doubt whether any governor can appoint all twelve board members. Board members were elected for 12-year terms before 2003. This meant that there were always trustees appointed by different governors. The length of the term limit was decided to be a matter of public vote in that year. Mississippians voted to change the term limit to nine years. A constitutional amendment was passed to permit this. “The people pushing for a change thought 12 years was too long. Ronnie Musgrove, Ronnie’s governor at the time, said that he doesn’t believe anyone led the effort. The new rule would allow trustees to be appointed by the governor and confirmed in the Senate. However, the constitution had been changed by a vote of the people. Lucas is one of those who understands the potential for this power. “I believe that no governor should appoint a majority of members of the Board of Trustees. But the people of the State didn’t agree with my view. Lucas said that they didn’t know what would happen if they reduced the terms. “But we haven’t had this type of decision-making with the governor at all. We would probably say that the people he appointed were his supporters. Although I don’t know the truth, I believe that it would be. He’s not the best person to point out as an example of a governor appointing a majority of board members because I don’t see anything that would suggest that he tried to balance the board in the other direction.” Lucas stated that Bryant made excellent appointments to the IHL Board. He said that he has lived through situations when politicians tried to interfere in higher education. Lucas stated that “By and largest, our board was able to resist that.” “We have one of the most effective systems in America for governing higher education. But we made it easier by reducing those terms. I’m not saying it has happened, but it made it possible for one person or group to influence higher education.”