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Editorial: Board has rightful responsibility to appoint president

By Editorial Board
On April 30, 2013

  • Natalie Vibert races for the puck in their 4-0 loss Saturday. Megan Reynolds

A 2011 Connecticut law consolidated several governmental agencies dealing with higher education, in the process creating the new Board of Regents for Higher Education. Nearly every public institution besides UConn is covered: Eastern, Western, Southern, Central, Charter Oak, and 12 community colleges. The 15-member board recommends the president, which the governor has the authority to confirm or reject.
This led to trouble last year, after the system had hired its first president Robert Kennedy, who was president of the University of Maine before he took the job. Once leading the organization, he unilaterally approved executive pay raises without board approval. The story originally broke last October by the Connecticut Mirror. Executive Vice President Michael Meotti also resigned in response to the scandal.
A new piece of legislation removes the governor from the appointment process, leaving the presidential selection at the sole discretion of the Board. House Bill 6648 was passed by the state House 129-14 on April 10, by the Senate 28-8 on April 18, and signed by Governor Malloy last Monday. We support the decision to make it the responsibility of the Board of Regents to appoint the president of the Connecticut state university system, rather than the Governor (the interim president is former UConn president Philip Austin.)
It is worth noting that Governor Malloy signed a bill which limited his own power. Of course, this step is hardly an easy action for any leader to undertake. One is reminded of Malloy's predecessor Jodi Rell signing a 2009 bill removing the governor's power to appoint a U.S. Senate vacancy should one arise in Connecticut.
Most of the no votes on the measure were cast under the argument that it gives the Board of Regents too much power. Perhaps this argument is valid. Only time will tell if such a fiasco as the embarrassment last fall will be prevented by this new law. Other proposals have been floated, such as having the legislature confirm the Board president, or having an independent and unrelated commission choose. Are those better options? It's hard to say. What we do know is that the status quo resulted in a failed choice and a public relations nightmare, and a step was taken to fix it.

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