When Politicians Run Colleges

AandM

Now that the governor of Texas has announced his intention to become the next president of the United States, it might be interesting for readers to take a look at education in the Lone Star State. The College Guide has previously looked into Rick Perry’s unconventional plans for education, which involve extensive oversight of higher education, separating research from instruction, rewarding professors for teaching a lot of students, and giving more weight to student evaluations in tenure decisions.

Another odd thing about Texas is that the state just really doesn’t seem to value academics very much. At most higher education institutions the top administrators are former professors. They’re intellectuals who, either because of inclination or failure to obtain tenure, decided to work in the university’s central management. This is often not the case in Texas, however. Texas state schools are run by former politicians.

According to an article by Melissa Ludwig in the Houston Chronicle:

Former Comptroller John Sharp, a Democrat with a long history in state politics, was named Monday the sole finalist to oversee the Texas A&M University System, among the largest in the nation with 11 universities, seven state agencies and a health science center.

Other politicians-turned-chancellors include Brian McCall at the Texas State University System, Lee Jackson at the University of North Texas System and Kent Hance of the Texas Tech University System.

Sharp is apparently an old friend of Governor Rick Perry. Both graduated from Texas A&M University and were members of the school’s Corps of Cadets in the 1960s.

Sharp replaces Chancellor Mike McKinney, Perry’s former chief of staff, who resigned from A & M in May. According to the article “some have reported that McKinney was pushed out because he did not move quickly enough to implement the…‘seven solutions’ for higher education favored by Perry.”

Sharp did not comment specifically about Perry’s controversial education reform plans, though he’s had a long history of promoting “efficiency” in various state agencies. The A & M regents are apparently interested in Sharp’s plans “to get more bang for the university’s buck” at the school.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer