The Goldilocks Principle: Schools Need a Governing Body That’s JUUUUUST Right

goldilocksFrom The Texas Tribune (3/25/13)

Several Texas lawmakers have a message for the University of Texas System: If its regents must “needlessly engage” in a controversial external review of a now-defunct forgivable loan program run by the University of Texas Law School Foundation, they should use the Texas attorney general’s office to do it.

As of Monday evening, a letter making that recommendation to Gene Powell, the chairman of UT’s board, had been signed by four senators: Kevin Eltife, R-Tyler; Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo; Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo; and Kirk Watson, D-Austin. More are expected to add their names. The lawmakers did not mince words in their letter as they expressed their “deep concerns.”

“This duplicative review, which targets the University of Texas at Austin for the obvious purpose of attempting to discredit its president, will be the fourth review of this matter,” they wrote.

(Read the entire story including Texas legislators’ letter Gene Powell.)

As usual–and especially during the biannual legislative session–something funny is going on with higher education in the State of Texas. On the one hand, it’s hard to have any sympathy for a “loan forgiveness program” given that around the Ivory Tower office we call that “free money.” However, if you’ve got a governing body like the University of Texas Board of Regents who just won’t let the issue go after multiple investigations, it’s hard not to draw the conclusion–as the legislators do in the article above–that there is something else going on.

On the other hand, in contrast to an overly intrusive governing body, then you’ve got Pima Community College and its attendant woes these days–likely probation from their accrediting body, an interim chancellor who just stepped down, a search for a new chancellor mired in its own problems, and myriad allegations of sexual harassment against its former chancellor–which in no small part can be laid at the feet of a feckless Governing Board according to a scathing report from the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

Two extremes are being exemplified here–too much hands on vs. too much hands off–and, while both make for titillating news, what is really needed is a middle way. As the Buddha said, “These two extremes ought not to be practiced by one who has gone forth from the household life. (What are the two?) There is addiction to indulgence of sense-pleasures, which is low, coarse, the way of ordinary people, unworthy, and unprofitable; and there is addiction to self-mortification, which is painful, unworthy, and unprofitable.”

Or, perhaps this principle is best illustrated by the story of Goldilocks as per The Simpsons:

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