People from other parts of the country often look at Mississippi as a banana republic somehow washed up on our nation’s shores. Its citizens, this stereotype goes, favor indolence over labor, ignorance to education, demagogues over democracy.
Apparently, some of our leaders embrace stereotype.
Last week, the state’s Institutions of Higher Learning Board of Trustees bypassed its own hiring process by appointing Dr. Glenn Boyce as the Chancellor to the University of Mississippi. Boyce, a former IHL commissioner who had been hired to advise the board regarding its search, decided to apply for the job belatedly. In essence, he got paid $87,00 to assist with a search, then helped declare himself the winner.
The IHL held no campus interviews with faculty or students. You need not imagine how students reacted. According to the Ole Miss Faculty Senate, IHL skipped 12 of the 20 steps outlined in the school’s hiring plan.
The twelve members of the IHL board have all been named by Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant. They seem to have taken a page from the preferred method of his party’s parliamentary procedure: discuss all important items in a smoky backroom, develop legislation away from the prying eyes of voters and the media, approve the legislation without opportunity for debate or improvement. IHL leaders accommodated other stakeholders in the process to the same degree that Republicans accommodate Democrats in the state legislature. It may be efficient, but it isn’t right because it lacks transparency and oversight.
IHL Trustee Ford Dye said that the board moved quickly because “there’s a lot of division in the Ole Miss family right now. We wanted to get Dr. Boyce on campus to unify the Ole Miss family.” His comments can be placed in the same logical and ethical framework as a sitting president asking foreign rulers for dirt on political rivals.
Dr. Boyce may be perfectly capable of leading Ole Miss in a positive direction. However, by eschewing process in favor of promptness, the board that hired him has acted with insouciance unbecoming a public institution.