Ole Miss is a public university which means that each and every Ole Miss fan and, really, every Mississippi taxpayer, is a stakeholder in her future. Part of being a good fan and a good custodian of this public university is to stay educated and involved in the processes which shape Ole Miss. We want to help provide fans the resources to take part in the future of Ole Miss.
If you’re reading this, you’ve probably heard about “the College Board” at one time or another. But, if you care about the future of Ole Miss and other public colleges and universities in Mississippi, take a minute to understand what the College Board is and how it works. Then, if you want to share praise, you know whom to credit. If you have an issue, do something productive about it.
What is the College Board?
None of Mississippi’s eight public colleges and universities have their own Boards of Directors as private universities do. Instead, all eight are under the control of the same board, the “Mississippi Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning.” This is not uncommon as twenty-eight states have one board for all state schools.
Mississippi’s Board consists of twelve appointees and is also known as the “College Board” or the “IHL Board.” The governor appoints members to the Board in rotating nine year terms, and the Board itself appoints a Commissioner of Higher Education. Similar to many judges, although the governor appoints members, he does not have the authority to remove them once in place. As a result, each appointee has a great deal of insulated power.
These twelve people have the final say on hiring and firing for every college or university leader, deans, professors, and administrative employees. One of their most important roles is that they alone choose the university presidents, and they alone can fire them (”at any time for malfeasance, inefficiency or contumacious conduct, but never for political reasons”). See the image below for a graph of the chain of command at Ole Miss.
The College Board was established in the 1940s as an addition to the Mississippi Constitution (Article 8, Section 213). The purposes for its creation are complex, and Ole Miss professor Dr. Charles Eagles’s book, The Price of Defiance, covers some of this history, but this post does not.
However, the rules governing the Board have undergone many changes since then, and due to recent legislation, there will be a great shift on the College Board over the next few years.
The Khayat Effect
Chancellor Khayat served as Ole Miss’s chancellor from 1995 to 2009. Every single one of the current IHL Board members was appointed during Chancellor Khayat’s tenure. As we all know, Chancellor Khayat was a highly respected chancellor, and, as such, he wielded great power in higher education in Mississippi. Although each current member was appointed by a governor, Chancellor Khayat certainly, and appropriately, provided advice for many of the appointments.
Thus, the policies and goals of such a powerful educational leader as Chancellor Khayat have had a great effect even beyond his retirement. As an analogy, United States Supreme Court justices are appointed by the president, and, logically, each president’s appointees will share common philosophies with the president. Thus, although the president’s time is limited, the justice and his philosophies will extend far beyond the president’s departure. College Board appointments often similarly extend a retired official’s goals.
Although IHL Board members are time-limited and governor-appointed, Chancellor Khayat, presiding at the time of appointment of all the current members, has had a major impact on the current Board. This impact logically extends to the hiring of current Chancellor Jones as well as the policies and operation of the current administration as a whole. Chancellor Jones inherited most of Chancellor Khayat’s staff, notably Pete Boone, and he has made very few changes to this staff. Consider the following chart of hirings and appointments.
|Robin Robinson||College Board President||Khayat|
|Ed Blakeslee||College Board Vice President||Khayat|
|Stacy Davidson||College Board||Khayat|
|Bettye Neely||College Board||Khayat|
|Bob Owens||College Board||Khayat|
|Aubrey Patterson||College Board||Khayat|
|Alan Perry||College Board||Khayat|
|Christine Pickering||College Board||Khayat|
|Scott Ross||College Board||Khayat|
|Douglas Rouse||College Board||Khayat|
|C. D. Smith||College Board||Khayat|
|Amy Whitten||College Board||Khayat|
|Hank Bounds||Commissioner of Higher Education||Jones*|
|Pete Boone||Athletic Director||Khayat|
|*Commissioner Bounds official appointment came on July 27, 2009, twenty-seven days after Chancellor Khayat’s official retirement date.|
Chancellor Khayat did many great things for Ole Miss; that cannot be debated. However, as time progressed, it has become apparent that, at least in athletics, some changes were due. In spite of this undeniable need, though, it is unsurprising that neither Chancellor Jones nor the College Board chose to take action to change Chancellor Khayat’s choice in athletics. Jones and the entire Board were chosen under Khayat, and, unfortunately for athletics, they continued the path set by him.
Governor Bryant’s Change
Although the last decade of the IHL has been very predictable and consistent, due to recent legislative changes to the Board, a sea change is imminent over the next few years, and, as Chancellor Jones is a much more junior chancellor than Chancellor Khayat, it is unlikely that he will exert as much influence over the upcoming appointments. Governor Bryant will likely play the pivotal role in the upcoming selections, and his appointees will probably share many of his opinions on what is best for the future of Ole Miss and other schools.
Four College Board members will be replaced in May 2012. Four more will be replaced in May 2015, and, then, another four will be replaced in May 2018. Governor Bryant will definitely choose the 2012 and 2015 replacements, and he will select the 2018 replacements if he is re-elected. Governor Bryant could end up choosing 100% of the College Board. That’s a big deal.
Governor Bryant must choose these appointments in such a way as to keep an equal distribution of four members each from the three Mississippi Supreme Court districts. See map below.
The table below lists the current Board members according to when they will rotate off the board.
|Year||Members Rotating Off|
|2012||Davidson, Neely, Ross, Whitten|
|2015||Blakeslee, Owens, Patterson, Robinson|
|2018||Perry, Pickering, Rouse, Smith|
However, what is more important than the departing members is the districts from which the new members will be appointed by Governor Bryant. Although political motivation is disallowed as a factor in choosing candidates, it seems likely that Governor Bryant will choose members from each district that care about the schools in their respective districts. Ole Miss is in District 3 or the Northern District. Here’s the breakout of which districts will get new appointees and when. See the included image for a map of the districts and their representative schools.
For Ole Miss, May of this year is our most likely time to get “our” appointees. Obviously school preference will not be a sole determinant in selection, but three of the appointees from our district will be appointed in May. Then, our district’s final appointee for this shakeup will occur in 2015.
Using the included map, other schools can also determine the likelihood of getting “their” preferred candidates. A conflict exists in that Ole Miss and State are drawing from the same district while Southern is the only school in its district. Governor Bryant graduated from Southern and got a master’s from Mississippi College, both outside of Ole Miss’s district, so his District 3 appointments will be interesting to watch.
In any case, it is certain that Ole Miss is in for a change. In athletics, this cannot come soon enough.
What Can You Do?
Just like our university leaders, the College Board members are public servants whose duty is to serve the citizens of Mississippi by guiding their public colleges and universities.
There is a great deal you can do to help shape the future of Mississippi’s public colleges and universities, and our legislature and College Board have gone to great lengths to make their operations as accessible as possible.