Michigan is unique and uses an uncommon method to select certain public university board members. In fact, we are the only state in the country to elect university board members by a statewide vote. Three other states (Colorado, Nebraska & Nevada) elect boards through a district election.
Michigan has 15 public universities, however only three university boards are voted on by a statewide vote. The other 12 have boards appointed by the governor.
Per the state constitution: Michigan, Michigan State and Wayne State shall have eight members each holding eight-year terms and will be elected as provided by law every two years.
In most states the governor appoints board members, though requirements and restrictions may vary. For example, in the case of Purdue University the governor appoints the board members: 6 of the 10 appointees have no restrictions, one board member must be a student, and three are selected by the alumni association, one of the three alumni appointees must be a graduate of the College of Agriculture and presented to the governor for appointment.
Recently the selection process of the boards at Michigan, Michigan State, and Wayne State have come into question as a result of controversy and issues with board management. The other 12 university boards appear to be functioning more efficiently.
Some argue that switching to an appointed board would lead to more qualified board members which would in turn improve accountability.
Another concern with electing boards is that most voters know nothing about the candidates. Additionally, the two major political parties select their nominees at state party conventions where candidates appeal to extreme partisans to win the nomination.
This is a timely policy issue to discuss as a group of reformers are floating a proposal for next year’s ballot that would replace the three elected boards with appointed boards.
Thoughts to Consider
Should we hold a statewide or district election for the three university boards?
Is nominating candidates at the state party conventions the right way to select candidates?
Why do we treat the three boards differently than the other universities in the state?
Is eight years the right term length?
Should all university boards be appointed by the governor?
If the governor is appointing university board members what requirements and or limitations should be met?