Letter to the Editor: The state should have a voice in who runs public universities

To the editor:

I neither know Darrell Allison nor anything about his appointment as Chancellor at  Fayetteville State University.

But I also read that he is seeking to improve FSU’s retention and graduation rates, which reportedly are some of the worst in the UNC system.  That’s not necessarily going to be popular with the Faculty & Staff Senates, particularly if it includes additional accountability and/or responsibilities.

The real question is to whom a public university should belong.  The principle of faculty self-governance would be fine were it a general partnership where each professor was personally liable for the debts of the institution — but they can walk away if things go bad and it is the State of North Carolina that winds up being liable for all debts.  The state also provides a variety of subsidies to the institution — the late John Silbur was fond of pointing out the difference between “price” and “cost.”

Hence as the State of North Carolina is responsible for the institution’s debts, responsible for the institution’s annual subsidy, not to mention responsible to the parents whose children are dropping & flunking out — should not the state have a say in who’s running it?  Perhaps more of a say than the institution itself?

Could it be that the Board of Governors realized that one of their own would do a better job — doing what they want done — than anyone whom the search firm would present?

Could it also be a conflict between a center-right state government and a university that isn’t?  My guess is that we are going to be seeing a lot more of this, and beyond the angst and fury, the state universities aren’t going to win.

(And may regret having spent the past 20 years eliminating protections for free speech now that it is *their* speech being silenced — but I digress…)

Darrell Allison may be a political appointee, I don’t know the man.  But having seen the extent to which the search committees present a narrow clique of candidates, I’m wondering if going outside the process was the only way the BOG could get the Chancellor it wanted.

Ed Cutting, Ed. D.