Citizens deserve the best oversight of state colleges

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 2, 2005

Editor, the News-Herald:

Boards of Visitors are entrusted with running our colleges and universities, managing academics, admissions policies, financial affairs, and tuition rates.

With that level of responsibility, citizens deserve the best, most qualified people serving on those Boards. This year’s higher education reform gives more authority-and responsibility-to Boards of Visitors to better manage Virginia colleges.

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With that increased responsibility comes an increased need to ensure that those responsible for running our institutions of higher learning are selected on a merit-based system – they have to be qualified for the job.

Governor Warner has submitted an amendment to the General Assembly to put in place a non-partisan BOV Appointments commission to screen applications for college boards and help future Governors choose the most qualified applicants.

On April 6, the General Assembly will have the opportunity to adopt this new process and help protect Virginia’s Universities.

Virginia is blessed with some of the oldest and strongest colleges in the nation. The impact of decisions made today at those institutions will transcend this governor and the next, just as the decisions made by earlier generations shape these schools today.

We must ensure that those board members place a higher priority on what’s good for the school than the politics of the person who appointed them.

Governor Warner has been using this approach by Executive Order since the start of his term and this amendment codifies the practice for future generations of students and families.

Its success thus far, coupled with the new authorities granted to College boards in the Higher Education Reform legislation, make adopting this non-partisan merit-based approach vital.

Jesse F. Ferguson

Executive Director, Virginia21