Now a new CPE?
Brad Cowgill's decision to resign, rather than face a prolonged fight over his appointment as full-time president of the Council on Postsecondary Education, was the right resolution for the wrong process.
The General Assembly clearly intended the state's system of public colleges and universities to be overseen by a CPE administrator with national stature and deep higher education background. Mr. Cowgill did not qualify on either point.
He was, however, a thoughtful interim leader for the CPE whose views on funding our public campuses were worth serious consideration. His negative reaction to more
tuition hikes -- especially a big increase by the Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS) -- was fully justified. It's understandable that CPE chairman John Turner accepted his resignation "with mixed emotions."
Entirely predictable was the reaction from Senate President David Williams, who charged Gov. Steve Beshear with "interfering" in the selection of a CPE president. That complaint may be brushed aside as false. Mr. Beshear didn't interfere. He simply insisted that the CPE selection process operate according to law.
Our view has been, and remains, that the most important task is not choosing a new CPE president but deciding what the council should be -- coordinator? advocate? both? -- and what it can be, given the ultimately, and inevitably, political nature of the big decisions it must make concerning Kentucky's public higher education system. Whatever role is assigned to the council, the General Assembly and the governor can't be written out of the process. They won't let themselves be bypassed...
Cowgill also drew praise from H-L for his statesmanship.
Cowgill resigns; now Beshear must step up
Gov. Steve Beshear won the battle but Brad Cowgill walked away looking like a statesman.
Rather than trigger an unproductive fight with the governor, Cowgill surrendered a job that he wanted, even though he had powerful allies, including Senate President David Williams, who would have helped him try to hold on.
By doing the honorable thing, Cowgill sets the stage for a national search for someone to lead Kentucky's efforts to catch up with the rest of the country in educating its people.
Beshear has expressed an interest in doing all he can to assist the search for a new Council on Postsecondary Education president.
What would be most helpful from him is a genuine commitment to provide Kentucky's public universities and colleges and the state's public schools with the resources they need. A commitment backed by effective action...