by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Jay Schalin of the Martin Center looks into the hubbub surrounding Darrell Allison’s appointment as Fayetteville State University chancellor.
Members of the media and faculty erupted into histrionics at the recent appointment of Darrell Allison to the chancellorship of Fayetteville State University. It is a great scandal, they claimed; Allison “cut in line” cried the left-wing think tank NC Policy Watch; the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) and FSU faculty senate questioned not just the process, but Allison’s qualifications as well.
But, as the Martin Center’s Shannon Watkins demonstrated, the scandal is more optical than factual. Once again, supporters of a Republican appointee, by acting secretively rather than with confidence, gave activists on the other side just enough of the appearance of wrongdoing to enable the sort of “trial by media” that has become all too common in recent years.
Politics aside, the affair highlights some important higher education governance issues.
First of all, should chancellors (the top administrative position, akin to a college president) of public universities be required to have academic backgrounds? That appears to be the claim made in a letter from the AAUP to the chair of the FSU Board of Trustees (quoting the FSU faculty senate): “Mr. Allison…lacks the requisite academic experience necessary to serve as the leader of an academic institution.”
That raises the question of whether the position of college chancellor or president requires skills that can only be acquired by being an academic? …
… Mandating that top administrators can only serve if selected or approved by academics increases the danger that academia will remain locked forever in an endless loop of narrow conformity. Those who spend their entire adult lives in academia and move up in the hierarchy tend to share a common set of beliefs that is often at odds with the rest of society; reform and rejuvenation will not come from inside the academy. Bringing in leaders and ideas from outside the higher education bubble is especially important today since the leftist academic establishment is pushing the envelope so far as to mandate political litmus tests for faculty hiring.