The regents of Georgia’s public university system will name their choice Tuesday for its next chancellor, a post in which former Gov. Sonny Perdue has publicly expressed interest.
A 19-member board overhauled by Gov. Brian Kemp in recent weeks is scheduled to name a sole finalist to lead the system’s 26 universities after the search for a permanent successor stalled in May amid dissension on the board. The board will vote later on whether to ratify its choice.
The choice also could invite scrutiny from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, which accredits all the universities. The association asked in April whether there had been undue political pressure to appoint Perdue. In June, responding to a public records request by The Associated Press, the system said no one ever responded to that inquiry.
Kemp kept restructuring the board Monday, naming financial adviser Doug Aldridge of Chattahoochee Hills to the panel representing the 13th Congressional District. Kemp last month named homebuilder Tom Bradbury of Atlanta to the 11th District seat, commercial contractor Richard “Tim” Evans of Alpharetta to the 6th District seat and trucking entrepreneur Jim Syfan of Gainesville to the 9th District seat.
Governors typically name their top supporters to be regents, but Kemp could face questions about whether he pushed out regents opposed to Perdue and named supporters.
Perdue was the first Republican governor of Georgia in more than a century, serving two terms. Perdue appointed Kemp as secretary of state in early 2010, aiding Kemp’s primary bid for that office. And Trump has said Perdue talked him into endorsing Kemp in a 2018 Republican runoff for governor, contributing to Kemp’s win over Casey Cagle.
The American Association of University Professors, which represents some instructors in the system with 340,000 students, is already attacking regents for a closed-door session Friday, saying Monday that faculty have been shut out and deserve a voice in deciding the next chancellor.
The group says Perdue is a bad choice because he has never worked in higher education. The group also knocked Perdue for his term as secretary of agriculture under President Donald Trump, saying his department improperly discarded studies showing the risks of climate change and instead chose studies favoring the meat industry. Another source of possible contention is Perdue’s lobbying of Georgia lawmakers in late 2020 to overturn President Joe Biden’s victory in Georgia, backing Trump’s falsehoods that he had won the state.
“He is not a qualified candidate,” said Matthew Boedy, president of the Georgia state conference of the AAUP and a professor at the University of North Georgia.
Critics also say Perdue had a bad record as governor of reducing student access to higher education.
Perdue’s supporters say he knows plenty about higher education from his time as governor and note his experience running large organizations.
In May, regents hired a new search firm after the previous firm quit, citing “misinformation.” The new search firm was supposed to reexamine existing candidates and recruit new ones.
Teresa MacCartney had been acting chancellor since June 30, when a stalemated board named her to run the system while saying it would continue to look for a permanent leader.