The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents this month followed the recommendation of Chancellor John Sharp and named Mark A. Hussey interim president of the 53,000-student campus in College Station.
The selection of Hussey, a vice chancellor and dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, was a move that gratified faculty who had insisted on an academic for the post, but apparently it did not set well with Gov. Rick Perry.
Perry was supporting Guy Diedrich, the system’s vice chancellor for strategic initiatives and its former top lobbyist, for the post, according to the Texas Tribune. And the governor was intent on getting his way despite what the board had decided to do.
The online publication reported last week that the day before the regents’ vote on the interim president, Perry contacted board members with a suggestion that a new position, to be filled by Diedrich, be created “on par with [the] chancellor.” The title would be “Executive President (Director) of the Board of Regents or President of the Office of the Executive Board of Regents (or something similar),” the Tribune said.
That item was not on the regents’ Dec. 14 board agenda, so it has not been discussed. Nor should it be.
It is a bad idea that ought to be dismissed outright. The proposal of dual leadership — in effect truncating the chancellor’s authority — is nonsensical for a system the size of A&M.
Perry, who by statute appoints the board members to state universities, ought to stop meddling once he’s selected the regents.
The constant politicization of the governance of these institutions is a distraction that interferes with good management and could have other negative effects that filter all the way down to the student body.
We’ve seen the turmoil that erupted at the University of Texas over the past two years after a special adviser to the board was hired.
Sharp has proved to be a very good leader for A&M, which is experiencing phenomenal new growth, has increased academic offerings, is basking in the attention of a football powerhouse and reached a new milestone this year when it purchased Texas Wesleyan Law School in Fort Worth.
The chancellor should not be undermined by any politician, including the governor.