Athens State University now has the authority to form its own board of trustees after Gov. Robert Bentley signed a bill sponsored by the county’s local legislative delegation.
ASU spokesman Guy McClure said the school can “start the process to move forward with creating a board of trustees and adjust current institutional policies and procedures toward the new governance an autonomous board would provide.”
School officials have repeatedly said there are no plans to turn the school into a four-year institution. University officials believe, however, that creating the 11-person board will give the institution more flexibility when making decisions, a sentiment reiterated Thursday by ASU President Dr. Bob Glenn.
“As it stands now, we have to operate in the confines of not only the Alabama Commission on Higher Education, but also the Department of Postsecondary Education, so we have to do everything more than once,” he said. “That’s not a complaint, it’s just the way the process is set up. (The board of trustees) will allow us to take care of things much more quickly and efficiently.”
The ASU bill was approved by the Senate last month, but was sent back to the Senate Wednesday evening with four amendments added by Bentley. One amendment states ASU may not be acquired, merge or consolidate with any university or college located more than 50 miles from the campus.
Glenn does not know the specific reason for the amendment, but said it may have been added to quell fears that Auburn University or the University of Alabama could take over ASU as a means of adding another branch.
Other amendments included verbiage ensuring the board of trustees meets standards set forth in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and that the university will only offer graduate programs approved by the ACHE that won’t duplicate programs by other state universities and colleges.
Glenn said another benefit of having a board of trustees is that it will enable ASU to more freely collaborate with other local colleges like Calhoun Community College and the University of North Alabama.
He said the school’s business program is growing, but the school doesn’t offer a Masters in Business Administration, whereas UNA does. ASU has a proposal before the ACHE that would allow UNA to offer MBA courses at ASU’s campus.
“We wanted to bring that program to our campus so our students can take advantage of it,” Glenn said. “UNA and Athens State are both state institutions, and we’re not competitors. We’re not Home Depot and Lowe’s. We’ll continue to look for strategic ways to collaborate and break some molds.”
In terms of the board of trustees, school officials will now work on developing nominations for members. A committee has been appointed that will act as a nominating committee, and a list will be developed for the governor’s approval.
As governor, Bentley would be an ex-officio member of the board of trustees, just as he is with other state institutions. Another definite member will be Mary Scott Hunter, who represents ASU as a member of the state school board.
Glenn said he would also take suggestions from the community and would forward those to the nominating committee.
He also thanked members of the local legislative delegation for presenting the bill and working to get it passed by the Legislature. He added members fought some “crazy amendments and dogged opposition” while sponsoring the measure.
Sen. Bill Holtzclaw, R-Madison, one of the bill’s sponsors, said he was excited about the school’s future.
“I’m obviously very happy about Athens State coming out from under the two-year system, which will give them the ability to expand in a limited nature,” he said.