Journal-Times (Grayson, KY)

Wednesday's Post

February 29, 2012

Power politics at work is not a pretty sight

Feb. 29, 2012 —     “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

    Lord Acton, the British historian credited with first making that statement, could have been referring to what is happening these days in Frankfort.

    I’m alluding, of course, to the hardball fight to legitimize a political backroom deal to convert the University of Pikeville into a state university system without too many objections or tough questions.

    Several issues remain unexamined in what appears to many as a thinly-disguised bailout of a private university with limited academic, financial and physical resources. Less than two years ago, it was still a college.

    A former governor and the Speaker of the Kentucky House are working overtime to make Kentucky the first state in 42 years to bring a private university into its state system.

    Coincidentally, the last state to do so was Kentucky in 1970 when the University of Louisville came in after four years of study. This time it could happen with a five-week study that might be totally ignored.

    I wonder why the need for a ninth public university is not mentioned in the new five-year strategic plan of the Council on Postsecondary Education, despite the fact that the UPike president chaired the CPE when that plan was developed and adopted.

    This situation is looking more and more like another case of Eastern Kentucky politicians trying to exploit the problems of their region by creating feelings of guilt among those in more prosperous parts of this state and nation.

    As a native, I believe most of the people of this region are proud and industrious and do not want to be characterized as poor mountain folks in need of another handout.

    Do coal county students have ready access to higher education? My research shows two private colleges, three community and technical colleges with 11 extension campuses, two public universities with three regional campuses in the region, plus a public-private consortium offering four-year and graduate degrees. Additionally, online courses and degrees are plentiful across Kentucky.

    The bottom line is that Kentucky cannot afford to add a ninth public university when it cannot adequately support its K-12 public schools, eight existing universities and a statewide community and technical college system with 68 campuses.

    The issue took on a new, uglier face this week when the Speaker submitted an open records request for expense records in an obvious effort to intimidate President Wayne Andrews and members of the MSU Board of Regents.

    They had the audacity to speak out against this apparent rush to judgment that could cost the taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars in the years ahead.

    The only bright spot in Frankfort so far has been the courageous stand of Rep. Rocky Adkins who urged more than 20,000 of his fellow MSU alumni to work against House Bill 260.

    Thanks, Rocky.

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