Former Gov. Sonny Perdue has been named the sole finalist to head the University System of Georgia.

Perdue earned a bachelor of science and doctor of veterinary medicine from the University of Georgia. He is the cousin of David Perdue, who is running against Brian Kemp in the governor’s race. Sonny Perdue also was agriculture secretary during the Trump Administration, where he faced ethical questions about a sweetheart real estate deal in South Carolina and promoting Trump’s reelection campaign while on USDA business.

In 2010, Sonny Perdue appointed Kemp Secretary of State.

Perdue told the AJC’s Greg Bluestein he wants the job in order to fuel the economy and to put the brakes on what he called the “culture revolution” on campus.

Critics have said that Perdue is not qualified to run the state’s 26-institution higher education system, pointing to his lack of higher education work experience and a warning letter from the regional accrediting body, The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

In April 2021, SACSCOC President Dr. Belle S. Whelan wrote USG Board of Regents Chair Sachin Shailendra, “The most important activity in which any governing board will be involved is the selection of the CEO. While it is often especially difficult for members of a governing board who are appointed by the Governor or legislative body to remain independent in their work, it is imperative that they do, or they place the accreditation of the institution(s) they govern in jeopardy. This not only brings bad press to the institution(s) and the possible loss in enrollment and donations, but it endangers the institutions’ access to federal financial aid. I ask that you and the Board take these Standards into consideration as you deliberate the process and candidates to fill the upcoming vacancy of the Chancellor’s position. If you can’t find a successor in the timeline identified, there is always the option of putting someone in the position in an interim capacity until you’re satisfied that you’ve found the best candidate to fill the position permanently.”

Should SACSCOC find Perdue’s appointment was politicized, it could revoke accreditation for USG institutions, which would cost Georgia colleges and universities access to federal financial aid dollars and force students to transfer to accredited institutions.

In October 2021, Georgia representatives of the American Association of University Professors wrote to the national AAUP, urging that body to revoke the USG’s accreditation after the Board of Regents voted to abolish the tenure process with something closer to corporate progressive discipline.

Tenured professors enjoy the protections of academic freedom, which can include unpopular or politically sensitive views or research areas. Tenured professors can only be fired for specific cause after a faculty review. The new system would allow professors to be fired if they get two bad reviews in a row.

Perdue’s appointment comes amid legislative debates over banning the teaching of critical race theory or other topics that could make some students “uncomfortable,” according to Republican lawmakers. Democratic legislators call that overreach.

The AAUP explains tenure and academic freedom, in terms of professional ethics, on its website.

The Organization of American Historians has a detailed explanation of academic freedom on its website.

Robin Kemp

Robin Kemp is executive editor and CEO of The Clayton Crescent, which she founded in 2020. She has worked for Gambit, CNN, The Weather Channel, Clayton News, Henry Herald, and numerous freelance outlets....

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