IHL Commissioner Hank Bounds is finalist for president of the University of Nebraska, a five campus system not unlike the multi-campus Mississippi system Bounds oversees as commissioner.
In an interview with the Daily Nebraskan, Bounds expounded on his expectations should he becomes president:
“Nebraska University constituents should expect me to ensure that students receive a world-class education that is accessible and affordable. Students should expect top-rated academic programs with strong academic support services. Parents should expect a focus on timely degree attainment. The entire campus community should expect me to focus on health and safety. Faculty should expect me to focus on retaining and attracting top-rated faculty, which will require competitive compensation, the best classroom facilities and laboratories, and an environment that fosters the exchange and debate of competing ideas. There should be an expectation that I work with the business community and state leaders to help keep and grow jobs in Nebraska – NU should be the engine that powers economic development in the state. All should expect me to grow the research enterprise and pay special attention to the land grant mission and the role that agriculture plays in the state. While the list of expectations could go on and on, my personal philosophy is that university leaders must make decisions based on what is best for students. Students should expect me to be accessible and committed to their success.”
So, how has Bounds done delivering these “expectations” to Mississippi during his five years as commissioner?
While he has a lengthy page on the IHL web site (http://www.mississippi.edu/commissioner/) touting his accomplishments, the answer is mixed. Certainly, the University of Mississippi and Mississippi State University have come closest to meeting these expectations. The other six universities, well, not so much. Three of them, the University of Southern Mississippi, Alcorn State University, and Mississippi Valley State University have suffered management problems under Bounds, and there is currently friction between Bounds and management at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. On the other hand, Bounds is IHL’s first “strong commissioner” and he inherited much he’s had to deal with.
Mississippi has diversity challenges Bounds will not face in Nebraska. Three historically black universities, the Ayers settlement, and lingering vestiges of segregation make governance of the Mississippi system more challenging than more ethnically homogeneous systems. IHL’s enrollment is about 57% white, 35% black, and 8% other, while NU’s is about 82% white, 6% Hispanic, 4% black, and 3% Asian and 5% other.
While never having held a major position at a university, Bounds has administrative experience as State Superintendent of Education from 2005 to 2009 and as IHL Commissioner that give him expertise and perspective few system administrators can provide.
He begins interviews on Dec. 8th and looks to be a strong candidate and a good fit for Nebraska.