Monday, March 16, 2009

Here''s novel idea...

So I may be vanquishing a deceased equine here, but I read recently that another CSU, Colorado State University is currently searching for a chief executive. They, though, have foregone retaining an executive search firm and decided to find their next president on their own, a decision that will likely save them $100,000 or more. I had no idea that those executive search firms were so expensive and given the possibility we might lose $6 million in FY 2010, every penny we can save counts. It gave me pause to ask whether as a university community we have what it takes to select a president on our own. When I say as a community, that means that faculty, staff, students and administration make recommendations on three candidates to our Board of Trustees who have the ultimate responsibility for hiring the president. Could we overcome our natural tensions and work for the collective good of the university?

Well fair readers, sadly I don’t believe we could. There are several reasons for this. First, the faculty has never demonstrated any interest in shared governance. The Board of Trustees meets quarterly as a full board and you could count on one hand the number of faculty that regularly attend the Wednesday Board meetings, much less make comments during the Public and Employee Comment period. Without the faculty flexing its muscle or even making its presence known, the faculty will not be taken seriously or genuinely invited to participate in any substantive governance process.

Second, because of their well documented lack of oversight of our last president, the BOT has swung 180 degrees in the other direction and now micro-manage the operations of the university. Of course it is left to them to define fiduciary responsibility and their definition has them approving contracts of $25,000 or more instead of the $250,000 previously outlined in the BOT by-laws. Ignoring the input of the Presidential Search Advisory committee and directing that our admissions standards be modified for financial expediency instead of using resources to recruit and retain high quality students are indicators to me that the BOT is trying to rebuild their institutional reputation often by cutting out the members of this community many of whom will be here long after their terms on the Board expire.

Finally, elements of the administration of this university have repeatedly proven unable to manage the institution competently, hence the embarrassing audit findings that garnered press attention. It is probably impolitic of me to say this but how many administrators have been invited to other career opportunities or resigned under fire during the past administration? How many current administrators should currently be considering other employment opportunities and polishing their vitae?

Without a trustworthy administration and a fully engaged faculty, no Board of Trustees could entrust the selection process to the university community, no matter how much better a pool of candidates could be forwarded and no matter how much money would be saved. Is the Board micro-managing some matters better left to the people responsible for their completion? Yes! Has the faculty abdicated its responsibility to be fully engaged in shared governance? Yes! Has the administration repeatedly failed the university in carrying out its responsibilities? Yes!

So I don’t think any of us, faculty or administrators can be surprised when we are shut out of the critical governance processes of the university. We have no one to hold responsible but ourselves.

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