Regents Say Morgan Was Right Choice

The selection of a key Bredesen aide to head the state’s higher education system was a sound decision, even though the process to choose him has come under sharp criticism.

That was the message delivered by a handful of members of the Tennessee Board of Regents and Gov. Phil Bredesen’s administration, who were grilled by the Senate Education Committee Tuesday afternoon on how they picked Deputy Gov. John Morgan for the post.

Several members, such as TBR Acting Vice Chairman Gregory Duckett, admitted the process could have been done differently. However, he and other members said they were happy how the appointment turned out, despite negative publicity implying the fix was in.

The selection, which neglected to include interviews with other candidates, left some lawmakers believing Morgan’s appointment was a “sort of rigged process,” said Sen. Jim Tracy, R-Shelbyville.

But chairwoman Dolores Gresham says the controversy shows that better oversight is needed from her committee.

“The law already gives us oversight, and perhaps it’s our own oversight that we need to improve and be more alert to,” she said after the meeting.

TBR officials did not interview any candidates other than Morgan when deciding who would be the next chancellor for Tennessee’s university and college system. Officials also reduced the education requirements necessary for the position from a doctorate to an undergraduate degree, saying they changed it to open up the process.

“You don’t have to know how to fly a 747 to be a CEO of an airline company,” said John “Steve” Copeland, a member of the board.

Board members said their priority was hiring a chancellor who could run the $2 billion higher education system while working with state lawmakers and implementing the Complete College Act of 2010, a law aimed at boosting graduation rates that Morgan helped get passed.

The committee interviewed five of the 12 regents, all of which said they were happy with Morgan as the new chancellor. Four others will sit before the Senate committee on Wednesday, and another four are not attending.