The State Board of Regents voted recently to tighten policies governing illegal immigrant applicants to Georgia colleges and universities, and they did it with little discussion.
Funny how those things happen.
It wasn’t all that long ago that we were being lectured by Chancellor Erroll Davis, who said, "We have no reason not to allow illegals to attend, any more than the grocer has a reason not to sell them groceries. We offer products for sale like many other entities in society, and we want to make sure people are paying the appropriate price for those."
Davis even suggested that the question of whether illegals should be allowed to attend schools in the University System was being driven primarily by "politics."
He was right. Our public universities and colleges are owned by the taxpayers and when we aren’t happy, we let our elected officials know and they, in turn, pass our anger along to the members of the board.
Now, the Regents have another issue they seem to be handling with the same political acuity as they did illegal immigration.
University of Georgia President Michael Adams wants a medical school and an engineering school on campus. He says, "Without engineering and medical schools, UGA has been unable to tap into the expanding federal funds for engineering and medical research, the two major sources of research funds for most academic institutions."
He has gotten his medical school and is pushing Regents to get him an engineering school, too.
Walter Jones, the Atlanta bureau chief for Morris News Service, wondered how UGA is hampered by not getting federal grants for a non-existant engineering program.
"What’s the point in creating the second-most expensive type of school — engineering is second only to a medical school — just to get research money and status?" Jones asks, "Wouldn’t it be simpler to put a fraction of the startup cost into expanding and improving the schools that already teach engineering in hopes that they snag more federal research grants?"
Those schools include Georgia Tech, Southern Polytechnic State University and Georgia Southern University.
Now the Regents have both Gov. Sonny Perdue and State Rep. Earl Ehrhart (R-Cobb), chairman of the House Higher Education Appropriations Committee, asking the same questions and suggesting the Regents slow down and communicate a little better.
Regents note they have the authority to make such decisions. Ehrhart says the Legislature has the constitutional authority to fund or not fund their decisions.
Will the University of Georgia get its engineering school? Ehrhart seems to think we can’t afford it and says no one has sought him out to convince him otherwise.
Our chancellor and the Board of Regents need to understand that they don’t operate in a political vacuum. They are doing the people’s business and while they must avoid being dictated to by self-serving politicians, as happens too often in the State Department of Education, they must also understand they operate with public permission and public approval. These are our tax dollars they are talking about spending.
Reach Dick Yarbrough at email@example.com or P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, GA 31139.