Gubernatorial decision-making: A case study of gubernatorial influence on the contemporary development of Connecticut public higher education from 1980--2001

Date of Completion

January 2008


Education, Administration|Political Science, General|Political Science, Public Administration




Past gubernatorial decisions, some made over two decades ago, have played an important role in the present rebirth and national recognition of public higher education in Connecticut. This study used a case study approach to examine the role that three governors—William A. O'Neill (1980–1991), Lowell P. Weicker, Jr. (1991–1995), and John G. Rowland (1995–2004)—played in shaping the contemporary environment of Connecticut higher education, with special emphasis on the University of Connecticut (UConn). The primary research question was: What were the decision-making processes used by Governors O'Neill, Weicker, and Rowland regarding the University Connecticut and other Connecticut public higher education units? Three decision—making models—rational comprehensive, incremental and mixed scanning—provided the conceptual decision-making framework that bound the study. ^ The study was qualitative in approach, which allowed for a rich and thick description of the background of the governors (Rallis & Rossman, 2003). These three men are quite different in terms of their socio-economic background, political parties, national exposure, and temperament. Themes were developed (Rallis & Rossman, 2003: Yin 1989) and used to infer gubernatorial decision-making preferences. The primary data gathering method was an interview instrument designed to elicit open-ended responses (Weiss, 1994). ^ Findings from the interviews and application of established theories cited in the study revealed that socioeconomic, party affiliation and the ideological backgrounds of the governors were not predictors of their actions taken while they occupied the office of the governors. Moreover, the rational comprehensive and incremental models of decision making were found in more prevalence than was the mixed-scanning model. Interestingly, the rational comprehensive and incremental models were symbiotic, with the governors' personal relationships with individuals in the higher education structure or with political supporters of various universities, being a key factor in determining gubernatorial action involving higher education. ^