- Georgia’s university system on Tuesday approved a new policy reducing the role of faculty in presidential searches, escalating tensions between the Regency Council and faculty at its 26 campuses.
- Previously, a faculty member chaired presidential search committees, except for those in the system’s four research institutions run by the regent. The faculty was also to consist of a majority of committee members in all institutions.
- Now the regent will preside over all the search commissions, regardless of the type of institution, and the council will still have the exclusive power to determine the finalists from the list of candidates selected by these commissions. Teachers can still sit on the search bar, but not in any set amount. Representatives of the system say the lack of a separate process for research institutions creates consistency, but the American Association of University Teachers argues that the changes strike at general management principles.
AAUP has been at war with the regency council for months, particularly when the council rewrote the ownership policy last fall, the green light of the institution to dismiss poorly working full-time professors without a court hearing before the faculty board.
The faculty organization opposed the new system and said it undermined overall governance. This also criticized the regents for expelling teachers from the village finding a new chancellor of the systemwhich she called opaque and politicized. The work of the Chancellor eventually went to Sonny Purduea former Georgia governor and a member of the Trump administration cabinet who had no administrative experience with higher education.
In March AAUP condemned Georgia’s system, a move designed to publicly signal the erosion of academic freedom. The system at the time said the AAUP had ignored its commitment to academic freedom and due process.
The regency committee at Tuesday’s meeting unanimously approved changes to the presidential election.
At the meeting, Christopher McGraw, vice chancellor for legal affairs, said the system wanted to streamline executive search procedures. He said that in some cases teachers can still make up the bulk of search commissions, although this is no longer required.
“This should ensure a consistent process for all 26 agencies,” McGraw said.
The Faculty of Systems did not warn that the Regency Council was considering changes in search processes before the agenda of its meeting was recently published, said Matthew Bodie, president of the AAUP conference in Georgia.
Boedy said regents can always attend search committee meetings and meaningfully attend. He wondered why they had to “highlight the voice of the teachers” from the process.
“The regents want to control the system from top to bottom, from their place at height, and they will find many ways to do that,” Bodie said.
System spokesman Lance Wallace did not respond directly to the criticism, but said in an email that “the updated process allows the board and chancellor to participate at all levels in the presidential search process.”
The involvement of teachers in presidential searches has declined over the past two decades, according to an AAUP report released in October. Twenty years ago, about 94% of institutions reported that teachers served on presidential search commissions, last year that share dropped to 88%.
Other states and government systems have made the search less transparent, and leaders say they value privacy and the ability to attract strong candidates.
The governing body of Mississippi State Colleges last month created a new policy that anonymizes groups that give feedback about presidential candidates. The identities of these members of the group are secret even from each other. In March, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, signed legislation doing confidential state searches at the college to their final stage.