Closed Georgia Chancellor Search Earns AAUP Rebuke

By Kelly Hand

Following reports in February that the University System of Georgia (USG) Board of Regents had secretly interviewed former Georgia governor and US Department of Agriculture secretary Sonny Perdue for the position of USG chancellor, the AAUP criticized the closed nature of the search and called for an open process with meaningful faculty participation. The USG chancellor serves as chief administrative officer for the state’s system of twenty-six colleges and universities, where faculty members and students have a compelling interest in a cooperative search that would identify candidates with strong qualifications in academic leadership. The regents subsequently announced that Perdue was the sole finalist for the position and approved his appointment in March, despite his lack of relevant experience in higher education.

The AAUP noted that the Department of Agriculture lost credibility during Perdue’s term, when a partisan agenda reportedly led to the sidelining of peer-reviewed research related to climate change and the promotion of studies favoring the meat industry. Current challenges to academic freedom in the USG include educational gag orders advancing in the state legislature and recent changes by the board of regents to the system’s post-tenure review policy that eliminate important due-process protections. A search process following the same guidelines for transparency and faculty involvement that the AAUP recommends for presidential searches would have given the USG an opportunity to select a chancellor with a thorough understanding of higher education, the confidence of the system’s faculty members, and a commitment to enhancing the educational experience of the system’s students.