by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Shannon Watkins of the Martin Center highlights two groups of college alumni who are taking more active roles in monitoring their alma maters.
An important voice is missing in today’s colleges and universities: that of their alumni. Their absence does a disservice to both students and the general public because, in many ways, alumni are the missing link that connects universities to the larger communities they serve. After all, alumni work in the “real world” after graduation and are usually more in-tune with the public than those who make a career in academia.
In addition, alumni serve as a vehicle of transparency and accountability in university governance. Without that oversight, university administrators are free to make important decisions—and hide unseemly ones—with few consequences. Such free rein can lead to a fraught system of governance. University leaders without proper oversight may enforce ideological agendas at odds with higher education’s purpose.
Fortunately, the lack of alumni influence might be changing at two universities. In recent months, alumni groups at George Washington University (GW) in Washington, D.C. and the University of Texas at Austin (UT) are refusing to be ignored. But in both cases, university officials appear reluctant to share their decision-making powers with other stakeholders.
The alumni group at GW is the most recent to hit the news. Just last month, the university completely cut ties with its alumni association, which was established in 1960 and had been its main alumni group since then. According to the school’s independent newspaper, The Hatchet, the recent drama between the alumni association and the university was preceded by a series of disagreements over power-sharing and financial control.