Some members of our community want to abolish the Institutions of Higher Learning (IHL). University of Mississippi Students Against Social Injustice (SASI) and University of Mississippi Solidarity, two far-left organizations, have been the loudest proponents. Institutions of our university, such as the Associated Student Body and Faculty Senate, have condemned the IHL for how they went about hiring Glenn Boyce. But many do not know enough about the IHL and its processes to make an informed decision about what should happen next. We should not abolish the IHL. We should keep and reform it.
To understand the issue at hand, we must first understand the IHL. The Institutions of Higher Learning Board of Trustees was established in 1944 to govern the eight public universities in Mississippi. Twelve members serve staggered terms of nine years in groups of four members. The governor appoints members and state senate confirms them.
While this is not an inherently democratic system, IHL members are at the mercy of democratically elected officials. Thus, they are responsible to the citizens of Mississippi and the students, faculty and administrators they serve. However, they are also an appointed position, keeping them from being a completely politicized institution. They have full control over their policies and bylaws with a mission to effectively communicate accomplishments and meet the needs of public universities in Mississippi.
However, indicative of the recent chancellor search, the IHL has neglected to fulfil that mission. It is true that the Board of Trustees had full rights to amend the chancellor search process when it did not find a suitable replacement chancellor for Ole Miss. Their bylaws explicitly say so. But the lack of transparency and accountability has garnered frustrations from many in the Ole Miss community.
Destroying this otherwise effective institution would do no good for the University of Mississippi and other institutions like it. What SASI and UM Solidarity neglected to offer in their list of demands was an alternative to the IHL. Without it, many of the menial tasks assigned to the board will be left to the legislature to decide. How does that solve the problems many see with the IHL?
Revolutionary action without a serious debate on the mistrust students and faculty have with the IHL is dangerous. It undermines civil discourse, a virtue touted by groups like SASI and UM Solidarity. It destroys a relatively good institution in favor of chaos. And it stops lasting change from occurring.
The most logical step for our university to take — considering the chancellor search controversy — is to work with IHL members and the Mississippi state legislature to reform the institution. The IHL needs to be held accountable for its actions and be required to cater to the needs of the eight universities it oversees. The call to action should be reform, not abolishment. Keep the IHL and work to make it a better institution for the future of Mississippi higher education.
A coalition to reform the IHL could start with reforming the bylaws. The Board of Trustees should have higher standards of transparency and communication with universities. The voices of students, faculty and administrators should be heard by the board whenever a serious decision is being made. And the IHL should not be able to amend its processes without the consent of the stakeholders.
What has been lost in accountability and communication with the IHL should not mean complete destruction of the institution. I challenge the members of the Ole Miss community to seek out rational solutions to prevent a debacle like this from occurring again. Honest debate and helpful reform should always be the first step in solving a complex issue like the one Ole Miss now faces.
Lauren Moses is junior accounting and political science major from Dallas, Texas.