What is the useful role of CHE?


s foreshadowed in a previous post, we met this afternoon with Garrison Walters, the new (new to us, anyway) head of the state Commission on Higher Education.

Once upon a time, that post was filled by Fred Sheheen — Vincent’s Daddy, for those keeping up with political genealogy — who had an active, aggressive notion of the role the CHE should play in marshaling this poor state’s limited higher education resources to greatest effect. The powers that be, such as those who revere the prerogatives of the godlike boards of trustees of the respective institutions, did not like his style. They moved not only to get rid of him, but to restructure the CHE to make it kinder, gentler and less likely to say "nay" to anything they wished to do — or to have any authority even if it did say so.

Since then, the organization has been a lot more studious and polite — content with a "coordinating" rather than "governing" role. Mr. Walters is aware that our board has long favored a Board of Regents that would treat our collection of public, post-secondary institutions as a system rather than islands. He maintains, as do many who cast doubt on our restructuring fervor (say, the Senate on doing away with the "long ballot," or defenders of the council-manager system in Columbia), that some states with such boards do well, and others do not, while some states without overall governance do fine (he cites Michigan, Illinois and Texas).

My position, as always, is that given a choice between a structure intended to facilitate efficiency and accountability on the one hand, and a structure that one can succeed in those regards in spite of, I prefer the former.

As previously noted, of course, we temporarily have a condition in which our three research institutions, motivated in part by such inducements as the endowed chairs, are pulling at their oars as though they understand that we’re all in the same boat. Mr. Walters made note of that. Our position is to applaud our current state, but to worry about what happens when the current individuals in leadership move on, as Andrew Sorensen is about to do. Below that level cooperation and coordination is less evident, although there are encouraging exceptions to that trend.

Anyway, Mr. Walters held out hope that once a study committee finishes its work in September, we might see a new focus and purpose toward focusing our higher ed efforts. Let’s hope he’s right. In the meantime, I provide a video clip in which I ask our guest what he thinks it will take for South Carolina to get where it needs to go, and what CHE’s role is in that…

10 thoughts on “What is the useful role of CHE?

  1. Doug Ross

    > Anyway, Mr. Walters held out hope that
    > once a study committee finishes its work > in September,
    Is there anything in the government that DOESN’T require a multi-month “study” to accomplish? Especially when the “study” comes back with recommendations that are not implemented…
    I don’t know when this study started, but couldn’t a reasonable set of ideas be identified in a month instead of six months?

  2. Lee Muller

    Back in the late 1960s, the state hired a person (I won’t name) who had been part of unifying the California college system.
    Some in the legislature who thought they should run USC and Clemson went after this man and is family, until he quit and left the state, leaving us with the CHE.

  3. TheAnonymous

    I don’t know about the useful role of this one.
    But a useful role for an ex-Marine is head-knocker cop. This is awesome — an ex-Marine from Texas! Now I can breathe a sigh of relief!! Good choice Chief Austin.
    Really, they should put one in every agency in the state. And at least one per row in the Legislature.

  4. weldon VII

    “My position, as always, is that given a choice between a structure intended to facilitate efficiency and accountability on the one hand, and a structure that one can succeed in those regards in spite of, I prefer the former.”
    Brad, I have read this sentence seven times, and I still have no earthly idea what it means. Could you translate it from eduspeak into layman’s terms for one so confounded by multisyllabicism and erratic polyclausality as I? Divining the meaning of “a structure that one can succeed in those regards in spite of” is tougher than dodging snipers’ bullets at a Bosnian airport.
    Come to think of it, grokking the sentence as a whole is harder than understanding Steve Spurrier’s and, yea, the entire University of South Carolina’s concept of athletic discipline.
    Please, offer a little exegesis for your awkwardly highbrow phraseology. My upcoming study of academic incomprehensibility and a $50,000 grant to hire waiters to serve wine and cheese while some of us chew the intellectual fat depends on your providing an ineluctable interpretation for your complicated verbiage.
    By the way, you would favor a syntax, wouldn’t you?

  5. Brad Warthen

    OK, weldon: If one structure lets me go straight to my elbow, and the other requires me to go around my posterior first, I prefer the first one.
    Perhaps I was being excessively polite because Mr. Walters was my guest, and was making a point sincerely held by many well-meaning people.
    But I am sick to death of people offering the argument that it’s OK to have a bad structure because you can still do good things in SPITE of it.
    That doesn’t mean you have to go down in flames over the structure, if you can find another way to do something. I perfectly understand why Belinda Gergel — who knows as well as I do that the city’s structure is a huge problem — is willing to devote her energy to making THIS one work. She is a very knowledgeable critic of what’s wrong with the city, and I believe she would accomplish more in four years to fix those things than someone else who just talks about changing the structure but doesn’t change anything.
    Unfortunately, too many people who wave away the idea of structural change are merely apologists for the status quo.

  6. Lee Muller

    Too often, vague demands for structural and process change are just diversions and stalling tactics by those who like the status quo of government being run by a corrupt cabal of insiders for their own egotistical and economic enhancement.

  7. Brad Warthen

    Vague? I spent an entire year of my life producing a package of 17 installments with well over 100 articles spelling out the kinds of structural change we need in this state (one full, multi-page installment devoted to higher education alone), and you say VAGUE?
    Where the hell do you get this garbage you’re always coming up with here, Lee?
    Not that there was anything else in what you said that made sense, but the “vague” thing was the last straw for me.
    Lee, I appreciate that you came back using your real name, and that has given you a lot of license here. But you’ve just about burned all of it up. I’ll ask you very nicely at this point to find something else to say to the folks who take the time to post here OTHER than ranting, hostile name-calling. Try being constructive for once, or maybe even civil. You might like it. But whether you do or not, there is a civility standard on this blog, and one more violation of it will be one too many.

  8. weldon VII

    Thanks, Brad. You cleared everything up for me. Sorry I made you go around your elbow to get to your nose.
    I guess this just proves cliches can be useful. 🙂

  9. Lee Muller

    Well, Brad, if you have such a comprehensive set of 17 tax reforms, why can’t any one of them be enacted without waiting on the other 16?
    And why are the reforms suggested by others, who have studied the issue for 20 or 30 years, ignored or dismissed by you and your fellow reformers?
    Do you see why most readers of The State don’t take you and Scoppe seriously?

  10. Doug Ross

    > Unfortunately, too many people who wave
    >away the idea of structural change are
    >merely apologists for the status quo.
    Does this include education reform as well?

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