The controversy surrounding the ouster and reinstatement of University of Virginia president Teresa Sullivan last month has sparked a national debate involving private sector influence on public education.
Sullivan was pushed out by the school's governing board because she wasn't willing to enact large cuts to university programs and treat the school's budget like that of a corporation with a bottom line, The Washington Post reported. When Sullivan stepped down, the university faculty and students fought back until she was reinstated.
These fights will likely be seen at more universities across the country, according to an Inside Higher Ed report:
The rate at which these types of conflicts are popping up is increasing, higher education researchers and administrators say, because governing boards, particularly at public universities, are different than they used to be.
They're made up of different types of people than in the past, who are appointed for different reasons and come with different perspectives. Boards, and the lawmakers who appoint them, face increased pressure and a wider variety of challenges, including questions about finances, educational quality, and productivity. Trustees, along with the general public, are more informed about and interested in a variety of higher education issues. As a result, bodies that were once viewed by many within higher education as a buffer from outside political pressure are quickly becoming the ones applying the pressure.
"Boards are recognizing that the stakes of higher education have risen," said Rick Legon, president of the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges. "The challenges are more difficult, the public trust is more uncertain, and as a bridge between the institution and the public, they're now responsible for an increased level of accountability."
Is this a growing problem among public universities across the country? What are the consequences? Legon will join The Daily Circuit Tuesday to talk about the controversy and what it means for future university disagreements.
Jeff Selingo, vice president and editorial director of The Chronicle of Higher Education, will also join the discussion.
"There is good reason for the anxiety," Selingo wrote in The New York Times. "Setting aside the specifics of the Virginia drama, university leaders desperately need to transform how colleges do business. Higher education must make up for the mistakes it made in what I call the industry's 'lost decade,' from 1999 to 2009. Those years saw a surge in students pursuing higher education, driven partly by the colleges, which advertised heavily and created enticing new academic programs, services and fancy facilities."
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