Faculty and students in the University System of Georgia (USG) are denouncing the nomination of Sonny Perdue, a former state governor, as the sole finalist to become the next chancellor.
The New York Times reported that the Board of Regents was left impressed by Perdue’s “impressive experience and leadership in public service.”
Regent Harold Reynolds said in a statement that the former US Agriculture Secretary also exhibited a “vast understanding not only of Georgia and its communities but of the issues facing the university system as we move forward.”
But faculty groups, students, and accreditation agencies are voicing their opposition to hopefully prevent Perdue from taking the position.
University of North Georgia professor and Georgia Conference of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) President Matthew Boedy did not mince words about Perdue’s nomination.
“I’m outraged and disappointed that the Board of Regents chose an unqualified candidate to lead the system,” he said. “He has plenty of executive skills and administrative skills. I just don’t think he cares about higher education nor knows how it should work.”
Boedy highlighted Perdue’s lack of experience in higher education, a standard qualification for previous chancellors, including Steve Wrigley and Hank Huckaby.
More Than Lack of Experience
Boedy, the AAUP, and local groups such as Students Against Sonny list several factors showing that Perdue is not the man for the job.
“During his tenure as secretary, the Department of Agriculture reportedly buried publicly funded, peer-reviewed research showing the dangers of climate change to agriculture and public health, and cherry-picked for promotion studies that favored the meat industry, damaging the credibility of the department and allowing politics to intrude into what should be nonpartisan scientific research,” the release said.
Alex Ames, a sophomore at Georgia Tech who organized Students Against Sonny, said that the former governor even cut an estimated $2 billion from the state’s educational budget. Yana Batra, another member of Students Against Sonny, added that appointing Perdue will threaten elementary, secondary, and collegiate efforts toward diversity and racial tolerance.
“He at one point, I think, campaigned to keep the Georgia state flag a confederate flag. And so I knew that his record threatened the inclusivity and the equal access that I prize in my public education,” Batra said.
Perdue also issued a proclamation making April Confederate History Month and was sued by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People for underfunding the state’s historically Black colleges and universities.
Despite criticism, Perdue continues to have supporters including the Board of Regents and current Georgia Governor Brian Kemp.
“During his eight years as governor, [Perdue] incorporated USG strategic assets into community and economic development programs, setting Georgia up to become the No. 1 state for business,” Kemp wrote in a statement backing the nomination.
“He established greater connections between all levels of education providers in the state, from the Department of Early Care and Learning to higher education, all while protecting against deep cuts to K-12 and post-secondary education as the state battled two recessions.”