Proposal could alter trustee appointments

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 9, 2004

Two Alabama state senators proposed a new constitutional amendment Thursday that could give the governor more power over university trustees who serve at embattled institutions.

State Sens. Gerald Dial and Ted Little, who both serve districts near Auburn University, want to give the governor power to replace board trustees at universities that have been placed on probation and risk losing their accreditation.

Circumstances surrounding the University of West Alabama, along with Auburn, spurred the amendment.

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Because of his location near Auburn, Dial, D-Lineville, said he constantly hears from citizens who ask, "So what are you going to do about this problem?"

Along with giving the governor power to replace one or more trustees, Dial also said the proposed amendment includes language that would remove a trustee who has been convicted of a felony.

In the case of UWA, Dial believes the board of trustees is at the root of the problem. And even though Dial has not spent much time with UWA president Dr. Richard Holland, Dial sympathizes with him.

Though both Auburn and UWA have been placed on probation for problems surrounding their respective boards of trustees, many of the reasons for the probation stem from academic or administrative issues.

If that is the case, and the board of trustees wasn’t the problem at a university, Dial’s and Little’s bill would still allow the governor to replace trustees.

Dial doesn’t see that as a problem. He also doesn’t think probation happens unless there’s a problem with the trustees.

Dial doesn’t have a prediction on whether or not his bill will pass when the Alabama Legislature convenes in February. He does foresee a tough fight and believes there will be strong opposition to it.

Though Dial did not know how members of the Senate will respond, opposition likely will come from powerful trustees at most of the state’s universities.