Letter: Professors are the “boots on the ground” behind Utah’s higher education policy. So why are there none on the new Board of Higher Education?

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Jon Cox, seated, one of nine nominees to the Utah Board of Higher Education, addresses members of the Utah Senate Education Confirmation Committee, Monday, June 5, 2023 at the Capitol.

Gov. Spencer Cox has overlooked a key stakeholder in assembling the new Board of Higher Education: educators. The previous 18-member board had two former university faculty and administrators. The proposed 10-member board has none.

The success of any plan devised by the board heavily depends on the implementation of policies by university and college professors and staff. For example, the governor’s goal of “want[ing] Utah’s colleges and universities to be more aligned with workforce needs” is worthy, but has limited chances for success if the board does not include a representative of the professoriate. Preparing students for the workforce requires meticulous and intentional design of major curriculum, courses, learning assessments and activities, and extra-curriculars (such as internships and honors societies).

Professors’ training and experience uniquely situates them to align university curriculum with a board’s plan and to provide honest assessments of potential disconnects between a statewide vision and the realities of delivering public higher education.

As a professor myself, I suspect most (if not all) professors agree with the governor that higher education should equip students with the skills and knowledge necessary to meaningfully contribute to society as professionals and engaged citizens. Crucially, professors are the “boots on the ground” for the implementation of the state’s higher education policy, yet our perspective has no outlet in the new Board of Higher Education. Our insight and collaboration would greatly aid Gov. Cox’s vision for improved higher education in Utah.

Zoe Nemerever, Murray

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