College Board revamp effort clears Senate, heads to House
From staff and wire reports
Jan. 18, 2002
JACKSON South Mississippi lawmakers waged a spirited but doomed campaign Thursday to force governors to appoint College Board members from each of the eight public universities.
The Senate defeated each effort.
Senators then voted 44-2 for a state constitutional amendment to require College Board members be chosen from each of the four new congressional districts. Three board members would come from each district.
Senators also voted to reduce board members' terms from 12 years to eight years. The governor makes the appointments.
All three state senators from Lauderdale County Terry Burton, D-Newton; Videt Carmichael, D-Meridian; and Sampson Jackson, D-DeKalb voted for the proposal.
The proposal is expected to head to the state House for consideration. If approved, the proposed constitutional amendment would go to the voters to ratify or reject.
The College Board, more formally called the Board of Trustees of the State Institutions of Higher Learning, is a 12-member panel appointed by the governor to oversee Mississippi's public university system.
South Mississippi senators joined black lawmakers in hopes of requiring that all College Board vacancies be filled with graduates from each of the eight universities
The effort was of particular interest to supporters of the University of Southern Mississippi, Alcorn State and Mississippi Valley State which don't have anyone on the higher education board who earned a bachelor's degree from their schools.
Alcorn and USM are in South Mississippi.
Some senators say they hope the new congressional districts will reflect regional interests. Those districts have not yet been drawn.
Burton, chairman of the Senate Universities and Colleges Committee, said he believed the new selection process should allay complaints from South Mississippi residents that their interests are not being served.
That debate was revived among USM supporters last summer when then-President Horace Fleming was offered a one-year contract extension instead of the standard four-year renewal. Fleming rejected the offer.
One College Board member has a master's degree from USM and was the only one to vote for giving Fleming a four-year contract.
State Sen. Billy Hewes III, R-Gulfport, said those actions only fueled debate over north-versus-south representation on the board.
Hewes initially won approval of a requirement that no more than two board members could have degrees from any one school. However, opponents rallied more votes later in the debate and defeated Hewes' proposal.
Hewes said what raises questions in some people's minds is the dominance of the board by one school or another.
Having one or two (board members) looks pretty good; when there are four or five, it doesn't look so good,'' he said.
Burton said that the proposal guarantees South Mississippi would have at least three members on the board.
This is a political decision. I don't think we ought to take the onus off the governor'' to spread the appointments among the universities, Burton said.
The Senate also defeated a proposal by Sen. Willie Simmons, D-Cleveland, to require one graduate from each college to serve on the board.
I am not sure we are going to get what we want unless we specify it,'' Simmons said. I think it would improve the system as a whole.''
Under the plan established more than half a century ago, one College Board member is appointed from each of the seven congressional districts in effect in 1944, one from each of the three Supreme Court districts and two at-large from anywhere in the state.