Straight Talk From Steve: Rodney Bennett
June 22, 2023
On June 22, 2023 the Regents of the University of Nebraska will vote to approve Rodney Bennett as the new chancellor of Nebraska's flagship university. Although the Regents are accepting feedback from the public, the procedure is just a formality. The vote will essentially be a rubber-stamp, ceremonial vote because the decision to hire Bennett has already been made.
If you were to ask me what the three highest priorities of the new chancellor should be, I would answer as follows: First, the University of Nebraska needs to reclaim its rightful position as a land-grant university. What that means is that the University of Nebraska system exists first, and foremost, to service the educational needs of the people of Nebraska. The University of Nebraska is supposed to be accountable to the people of Nebraska by supplying them with their basic needs in higher education. Until that goal is reached nothing else really matters.
Second, the University of Nebraska system needs to learn to live within their means. This means that the University's leaders must resist the temptation to raise tuition on students, manage state dollars well, and refrain from shifting the balance of the University's budget to financing from outside sources.
Third, the University of Nebraska system needs to reclaim its rightful place as an institute for higher learning. This means that the University of Nebraska system must resist the urge to become an institution for social and political change and stick to the business of educating students. This does not mean that controversial ideas should never be taught; instead, it means that University faculty and staff should never be in the business of pushing students to embrace controversial ideas and failing students who refuse to comply with the professors social or political agenda. A quick glance at the English Department's webpage is all the evidence needed to show how this has been a major problem at UNL.
Unfortunately, Rodney Bennett has not said anything to suggest that he holds any of these values as a top priority for the University of Nebraska system. For instance, in the interviews that I have read, I have never heard Rodney Bennett recognize the fact that the University of Nebraska is a land-grant University, that the University is accountable to the people of Nebraska, or that the University's first duty is to service the educational needs of Nebraska's citizens. Instead, Bennett has stated publicly that one of his top priorities is to reunite the University of Nebraska with the Association of American Universities (AAU).
Membership with the AAU runs counter to servicing the basic educational needs of most Nebraskans. When Nebraska lost its membership with the AAU, it wasn't because the school was adequately servicing the educational needs of Nebraskans. According to chancellor Harvey Perlman, the University of Nebraska lost its membership with the AAU because they lacked enough professors on tenure track, lacked an adequate number of faculty awards and citations, and didn't divert enough money into research. While all of these things are good for the making of an elite research university, none of them relate to servicing the basic educational needs of Nebraskans.
Next, Rodney Bennett has no plan for fixing the University of Nebraska's budget shortfall. University president, Ted Carter, informed the regents last month that the University of Nebraska is facing a $50 million shortfall for the 2023-2024 academic year and another $80 million shortfall for 2024-2025. When asked how he intended to resolve this problem, Bennett told the Lincoln Journal Star newspaper that he "...could not offer a specific recommendation for how to move forward."
Finally, Rodney Bennett will come to the University of Nebraska as a social change agent, specializing in the indoctrination of students in WOKE ideology. Instead of focusing on the basic educational needs of students, teaching students how to interact with controversial topics with critical thinking, or helping students find their own way through the maze of controversial ideas, Bennet told the Lincoln Journal Star newspaper that as chancellor, he intends to lead the university to "lean into the effort [of diversity and inclusion], and help drive the conversation about what diversity means on a university campus." Unfortunately, diversity and inclusion on university campuses never means that conservative ideas will be honored, respected, or valued. Nebraska's motto is "Equality before the Law," not "Equity before the Law." Equality means equal opportunity, whereas equity means equal outcomes.