Tennessee Board of Regents chancellor resigns over governor's reform plan

Says he can't 'in good conscience' continue

John Morgan, chancellor of the Tennessee Board of Regents, announced he would resign last week, citing opposition to a reform plan supported by Gov. Bill Haslam (R) , Adam Tamburin reports for The Tennessean.

Morgan was appointed chancellor by former Gov. Phil Bredesen (D) in 2010. During Morgan's tenure, he played a key role overseeing the state's expansion of performance-based funding for higher education and Haslam's "Drive to 55" plan to increase the number of college graduates in the state.

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Details of the disagreement

Morgan had planned to retire in January 2017 but decided to leave a year early because of concerns about a plan to create an independent board for six state universities overseen by the Tennessee Board of Regents. Supporters say the change, which is set to be included in the "Focus on College and University Success Act" this year, would help universities get more attention from their boards and free up the regents to focus more on the state's community and technical colleges.

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But opponents say the new structure would impose additional costs on universities, and Morgan contends that the plan will make it harder to hold schools accountable.

In a resignation letter sent Thursday to Haslam and Board of Regents Vice Chair Emily Reynolds, Morgan wrote that he "cannot, in good conscience, continue as chancellor for another year" because of his disagreement with the plan. He added that he would be unable to help implement a proposal that he believes would not help achieve the regents' goals for higher education in the state.

Haslam responded to the resignation with a statement thanking Morgan for his work on various reform initiatives. "I am grateful to John for his service to Tennessee and wish him all the best," he said (Tamburin, Tennessean, 1/7).

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