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Pro-business UWG Presidential Search Committee With Conflicts of Interest Announced

Pro-business UWG Presidential Search Committee With Conflicts of Interest Announced

As a UWG student, it is of great interest to me that our current President will be stepping down at the end of this academic year and that a new one will be replacing him.

I often think, dream, and reflect on what would be the ideal traits of someone who would captain of our ship.  They would need to be worldly, yet they would need to be a lover of learning.  They would need to have a greater vision of how to bring depth to an educational process that faces increased demands to become more superficial, technical, and utility-driven.  They would need to have a wider vision of human unity and potential, so that we can come together and rise up as a unified whole.  And, of course, they would need to honor and respect the integrity of the different worldviews and values that exist in the different departments.  This would include listening carefully to the voices of the professors and working to support them in their individual missions.

So, who should be the ones to take on this very serious endeavor of finding our President?  Obviously the voices should largely come from within the university community.  But, if the committee were to extend outside of our organization and into the extended community, who would be best to sit on the committee?

My first thoughts would go to people “in the trenches,” those most in touch with where the students are at and what they need.  I think of local high school teachers, social workers or therapists, maybe even a local librarian.  I then think of the people who run local non-profits who are constantly working to help the lives of others.  How about one of the members of the Ferst Foundation of Carroll County who are deeply dedicated to combating childhood literacy by providing free children’s books to over 3000 families in Carroll County every month?  Or, how about a member of Carroll County CASA that provides support for abused and neglected kids?

But, none of the above was chosen for the search committee.  Let’s do a quick little tracing of the process to see how our search committee came into creation:

Then Governor of Georgia, Sonny Perdue, appointed businessman, Benjamin “Ben” J. Tarbutton III, to the Georgia Board of Regents.  Ben has just an undergraduate degree in business, so he is hardly qualified to take on a leadership position according to academic standards.  However, he was politically connected as he is a corporate man, and he got the job nonetheless.   Sonny faced several controversies during his tenure as Governor, one being the blatant appointing of someone to the State Board of Dentistry as a thank you for doing a personal favor.  In politics, for every controversy that surfaces there are 20 that remain unknown.

Businessman Ben raises through the ranks and becomes Chair of the Board of Regents.  Thus, he is responsible for appointing the committee for the our next President.  I don’t know the inner workings- I assume he just rubber-stamped someone else’s recommendations.

And who does he choose?  Thirteen of the eighteen are part of our deeply involved with the university- including faculty and staff.  Great start.  But who are the remaining five?

• H.B. Lipham, III, Metro Bank

• Ben Butler, CEO of Carrollton Orthopedic

• Cynthia Denney, Realty Broker

• Ray Fulford, founder, Ra-lin Construction Co.

• R. Cade Parian, attorney, Smith Conerly LLP


Ben Tarbutton, Chair of the GA Board of Regents, appointed these five as the community representatives to the search committee.  This is 30% of our committee being what might be best to classify as pro-business, pro-growth.  Now, I don’t know these people, and in no way would I suspect that any of them are not wonderful people with great concern for the university and the community.  But, I’m not sure if 30% of our committee, and it is OUR committee, should be businesspeople.

H.B. “Rocky” Lipham runs our local Metro Bank.  He is part of the local Chamber of Commerce.  He is a business guy.  He is also the Chair of the UWG Foundation.

Cythnia Denney, a Realtor,  is also a long-term supporter of the university and is now Secretary of the UWG Foundation.

Ray Fulford founded Ra-lin Construction Co., which is likely the largest vendor of the university this year.  They do huge projects for UWG.  They are currently working on a $26.5 million dollar residence and dining complex project for the university.  They also did the athletic stadium.  Ray has donated a lot to the school, it seems from my short web-based investigation.  However, again, the mentality is business.  And, the potential conflict of interest is obvious.

Ben Butler is a CEO of a large health care business in Carrollton.  He also is a customer of Ra-lin’s services, as they built his organization a 11,000 square feet facility.  He is also a member of the Chamber of Commerce.

Finally, R. Cade Parian is an attorney who practices (according to the firm’s website): “Business Law; Personal Injury; Premises Liability; Products Liability; Torts; Appellate Practice; Banking Law; Civil Practice; Collections; Commercial Law; Construction Law; Debtor and Creditor; Election, Campaign and Political Law; Government; Government Contracts; Litigation; Municipal Law.”   Notice that business law came first, followed by some very political endeavors.

As I was saying, I don’t question the well-wishing, intelligence, nor intentions of these people.  All I want to point out is that non-university members of the committee appear to be very much more oriented towards the outer world than the inner world.    They likely are more impressed with great buildings than the Great Books.  However, coming from the GA Board of Regent Chair who is not a man of academia and who spent his precious few years in higher education pursuing worldly/professional endeavors (a business degree), we cannot be surprised with the choices.

I strongly hope that the confidence, energy, and power that these empowered business people bring to the meetings don’t sway our university representatives to overvalue worldly capacities and underprivileged that which is most meaningful and essential to education.

And, I find it disappointing that only 2 of our 18 committee members are specialists in education, whereas our university has so many professors who are directly dedicated to that which is the very core of our existence.

Here is hoping that our committee chooses new leadership that values the inner equally to the outer, the learning environment more than the cheers in the stadium, and the retention rate not for statistical, comparative, and financial reasons, but out of a deep concern for each and every student who walks through our doors.

UPDATE: 11/29/12:  A reliable source has shared with us that those that were chosen by Deans did not get offers by the BOR to be on the final list.  So, those who have been chosen amongst the university’s rank are not necessarily reflective of our leaders’ preferences.

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