There’s a Right Way and Wrong Way to Get Rid of Gene Nichol. This is the Wrong Way.

Del. Robert Marshall, R-Prince William, is tweaking liberal noses again. This time the object of his outrage has nothing to do with sex (except indirectly, if you consider this). He has submitted a bill that would require the College of William & Mary to have a majority of its 17-seat board of trustees elected by alumni, not appointed by the Governor. Reports the Daily Press:

Marshall’s proposal calls for the next nine members whose terms expire to be replaced by members elected by alumni. He said he modeled it after Dartmouth College’s governing board system, which includes members elected by alumni.

Said Marshall: “A board composed mostly of alumni would be on top of things a little better because they’d have an emotional tie to their alma mater.”

Predictably, the W&M administration disagreed: Michael K. Powell, the college’s rector and a 1985 alumnus, responded that “alumni are a critical constituency and letting them have some input in the selection process has merit. … But I do not think having a set number of seats controlled exclusively by one segment of the college community is wise or workable.”

I’m no more a fan of W&M President Gene Nichol than Marshall. I, too, would like to see the guy run out of town on a rail. But I’m not sure that letting politicians tinker with the university’s governance structure is the answer. If a conservative Republican governor were making the appointments, I suspect Marshall would be perfectly happy with things the way they are. Governance structures should be based on underlying principles, not political expediency.

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  1. Stephen Braunlich Avatar
    Stephen Braunlich

    If you’re concerned about governance of university’s Marshalls plan sounds like the way to go. For conservatives, they should wake up and smell the coffee: Republicans don’t give two shakes about education governance. You had eight years of Republican governors and they used their appointments as rewards for political support as much as anything else. For liberals, if they’re honest, they should realize that Democrats do the same… although their supporters tend to care more about education and so are more engaged in administration.

    But the larger question seems to be this: who is more likely to care about a given nominee’s position… the governor and House of Delegates, or the alumni? It’s a no brainer. I recognize its an alumnus that the governor typically (always?) appoints to the BOV, but one alumnus is not necessarily representative of all.

  2. Groveton Avatar

    I wonder whether alumni really make better board members. However, I find less mystery in the question of trajectory for UVA, W&M & VT. It seems to me that the trajectory of these three universities has been downward over the last 10 years. If true, the board members should be replaced because they are ineffective not because they are alumni of other institutions.

  3. Stephen Braunlich Avatar
    Stephen Braunlich

    W&M has produced a number of smart, think-outside-the-box alumni – the writer of this blog being one. However, the alumni aren’t given a role in the selection process for the BOV. Instead, it’s dictated in no small part by politics. Typically the story is written in small print, but if you remember the attempt to put Jim Dillard on the board you’ll find it written in big bold letters. A good system would either let the alumni launch a recall of a BOV member, vote on BOV members who choose to run, or require alumni approval of a Governor’s nominee in conjunction with or instead of House approval.

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