The following is an exclusive from former State Senator and our newest Mississippi PEP contributing columnist Doug Davis. Look for more contributing columnists over the coming weeks and months from Mississippi PEP as we continue to give readers insight into state government you can get nowhere else.
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BY: Doug Davis
With the exits of Dr. Martha Saunders at the University of Southern Mississippi and Dr. John Hilpert at Delta State University, the question comes up again: Why doesn’t each state university have its own board of trustees?
The concept is very simple and there are multiple reasons this would benefit nearly every university. Think of a business that has a board. The board is responsible for hiring and firing of top administrators, setting goals for the company and making sure the busies is going in the right direction. This concept works very well in the business world and has had a great deal of success at other universities across our country.
The ability for a university to have a “family discussion” on who their leaders should be makes sense. Those who invest time, money and other resources to a university care about the success of that particular institution and will work hard to ensure that only the best people available serve there.
Compare that to our current system. The College Board, who currently makes these decisions for state funded universities, is made up of a very smart, talented and energetic group of men and women from across Mississippi, and Commissioner Hank Bounds, who is respected nationally for his work in education both at the K-12 and university level, are some of the best leaders we could have in our current system. That said it’s the system that needs changing.
The next president of USM and DSU will be chosen by a 12 member board that has one Delta State alumni and three members have degrees from the University of Southern Mississippi. That means the next president of both schools will be chosen by the majority of a board made up of good people that have no direct affiliation with the university.
Going back to the business example, can you imagine someone on the board of Pepsi having a say in who the next president of Coke will be? It would never happen and even the suggestion is laughable, however that example is not far off in how our current university system works.
For the system to change legislation would have to be passed, and our Constitution would have to be amended due to the fact the 1890 State Constitution was amended to set up the current College Board System.
Allowing each university to have their own board would increase the number of university ambassadors in our State (desperately needed with roughly only 22% of the adult population having a college degree in Mississippi), create a sense of ownership and pride for the university family and allow those who have a direct interest in the university to chose their leaders and set their goals.
Change doesn’t come easy in our State, and many are content to live under the antiquated system we have. The taxpayers, students and universities deserve better than what they are currently getting from this system, and hopefully one day it can be changed for the betterment of higher education in Mississippi.
About Doug Davis: Doug Davis is a fifth generation Mississippian. Doug is an assistant vice president at First Security Bank in Hernando and has been with First Security since November of 2001. Doug was elected to State Senate in a special election in December of 2004 and was re-elected in 2007 for a full four year term.
While in the Senate Doug served as the Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and Chairman of the Universities and Colleges Committee.
Doug received the Legislator of the Year Award from the Mississippi State Troopers Association, the Mississippi Police Chiefs Association, the Mississippi Tourism Association and the Friend of Agriculture Award from Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation.
Doug is an active member of his community serving in the Hernando Rotary Club, a board member for the DeSoto County Economic Development Council, Past-President of the Hernando Main Street Chamber of Commerce, a board member for the Palmer Home for Children and on the board for the MED.
Doug currently resides in Hernando and is a member of Longview Point Baptist Church.