On Friday, October 20, the Nevada Board of Regents will hold a special "workshop." The agenda includes an item with the innocuous sounding title Principles and Best Practices of Highly Effective Governing Boards. While one cannot disagree that a highly effective governing board is highly desirable, the characteristics that constitute a highly effective board are, well, highly debatable. That is certainly the case for the discussion about to occur in the Regents' "workshop."
Dr. Jenna A. Robinson is the presenter. One would assume that Dr. Robinson has extensive experience as a member of an academic governing board. While her credentials include some work on governing boards, the bulk of her career has been as an operative, and currently the president, of the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal.
When you visit their website, the organization's philosophies will quickly become apparent. Originally organized as the Pope Center for Higher Education Policy as a project of the John Locke Foundation, the goal of the organization has always been to restrict faculty rights and academic freedom with the aim of stifling voices that do not agree with their ideological ideals. They claim to seek balance, but the evidence runs counter to their claims.
Undoubtedly, the Martin Center played a role in drafting the draconian policies and legislation adopted in multiple states, including Florida, Texas, and North Carolina. They champion policies that inhibit vigorous debate and the free exchange of ideas, imposing restrictions on faculty and the content they are allowed to explore in their courses. They oppose many of the bedrock principles of the American system of higher education, such as tenure and shared governance.
These policies have also led to an exodus of faculty in states where they have been enacted. Over one-third of the faculty surveyed in Florida, Texas, North Carolina, and Georgia indicated that they were actively pursuing positions in other states. Many new faculty hired at NSHE institutions in the last year came from these states. Similarly, students are opting to leave colleges and universities where these policies have dramatically impacted the curriculum.
Nevertheless, the Nevada Board of Regents under Chairman Byron Brooks has solicited the president of this organization to give the Board advice on how they can be more effective. Despite assurances from Chairman Brooks to faculty senate chairs that Dr. Robinson's presentation has been vetted with no “slides pertaining to political ideology or anti-faculty chaos,” the act of providing her a platform implicitly validates the work of her organization.
The Nevada Faculty Alliance sent a letter to members of the Board of Regents and the interim Chancellor strenuously objecting to the presentation by Dr. Robinson. We urged them to postpone the workshop until a more suitable candidate from an ideologically neutral organization can be found. We also sent messages to each campus president to encourage them to lend their voices to our opposition.
It is imperative that we do not let this pass unchallenged. It's the proverbial camel's nose under the tent. Before long, the entire beast will occupy the space, spying on our curriculum between the pages of our textbooks and regulating our instruction. We urge all faculty members to contact members of the Board of Regents and register your opinion about this "workshop." Better yet, please join us for the Public Comment portion of the workshop around noon, Friday, October 20.