Tuesday, March 31, 2009

What I want in a President

So I know that I am not a high priced executive search firm with the ability to find high quality candidates nationwide but I wanted to jot my thoughts down about what our university needs in the new President. Imagine if the university had a real opportunity to have this conversation. What knowledge, talents, skills experience and abilities, might have been articulated to identify a pool of high quality candidates. I came up with ten. You can add whatever other qualities you believe to be important.

First, the new president should have senior administrative experience at a university that awards graduate degrees. CSU has advanced to the level of a doctoral degree granting institution. I believe it is important that a president have significant experience in that academic environment. And in my mind, senior administrative experience is either as a Provost or a President.

Second, the candidate should have extensive fund raising and funding experience with a verifiable record of achievement. This experience should include securing funding for special projects, capital development campaign, increasing the university endowment and increasing public funding.

Third, the candidate should have a record for raising academic standards at the institutions in which he or she served. Higher standards would lead to higher retention which should lead to higher graduation rates which in our case is desperately needed.

Fourth, the candidate should have NCAA Division 1 knowledge and a track record of experience at a university whose athletics program performed at a competitive level during their tenure.

Fifth, the candidate should have a record of publication in peer reviewed journals or university presses. This would give the candidate an understanding of the relationship between research productivity and teaching load. I imagine that would lead to genuine good faith negotiation in collective bargaining with the UPI.

Sixth, this university desperately needs a decisive executive who will unhesitatingly remove employees who are an impediment to the growth and improvement of the university. Employees who repeatedly demonstrate their inability to competently do their jobs must, in accordance with their due process rights, be removed.

Seventh, CSU needs a President who has experience and a commitment to shared governance. Faculty don’t wish to run the university. They do wish to be genuinely collaborated with and considered in decision making. A candidate with experience working in good faith with unions would make negotiating periods more productive for all involved parties. Therefore, the candidate should be free of a history of no-confidence votes or labor strife.

Eighth, the university should be spared consideration of any candidate who would bring even a whiff of scandal to this institution. For a university that has been mired in scandal for the past few years, you remember, the audit findings, revolving door in the Athletics Department, $250,000 copy machines, accepting unfinished buildings like the Convocation Center and the general mismanagement of the university, it is absolutely inappropriate to interview any candidate who has any hint of impropriety.

Ninth, I want a President who can work seamlessly but independently with the BOT, not micro-managed by the BOT or any individual Board member. I would want them to be decisive enough to not be a puppet president of the BOT or any individual BOT member. Obviously the BOT has the fiduciary responsibility for the university. In my limited thinking that does not mean micro-managing the president or any of the employees of the university. Exercising oversight includes asking the right questions and reviewing important documents and decisions, not interfering with the President in hiring and decision making.

Finally, I want a President who has a vision for this diamond in the rough that we call CSU. I want a President who not only has a vision but is willing and able to articulate the vision and invite the university community to pursue it. A servant leader willing to envision something different, beyond the normal confines in which we operate is much more desirable than a convenient political crony. I want a President who would extend to the university the courtesy of articulating a vision for the university during the application process, not just submit a one paragraph pro forma cover letter. [WARNING: Editorial comments follow.] This university will never realize its potential as long as we are unwilling to envision something different. If we believe we are a glorified community college, then that is all we will ever be. If we can visualize this institution as something so much bigger than that, it will take a proven, tested, academic leader to lead the university into the next chapter of its history.

Have I missed something? Let me know what you think.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks, Phil. Who can argue with any of that? I believe that CSU could be the most transformative university in Chicago, with good leadership. Here's a relevant reflection from an experienced president: http://www.insidehighered.com/advice/2009/04/01/meyers