Phi Beta Cons

A Note on The Chronicle’s Presidential “Leadership” Forum

The Chronicle recently conducted a forum on presidential leadership that prominently featured the rapport between presidents and governing boards. A number of participants took the platitudinous road, urging openness, civility, proactive discussion, more socializing, etc. According to one such speaker, as paraphrased by The Chronicle: “Presidents and trustees need to learn how to agree to disagree….”

 

Such talk is sweet and good, but it obscures the real dynamic underlying today’s dysfunctional campus governance (and I focus my remarks on public governance): Neither trustees nor presidents–nor the governors who appointed the trustees–have learned how to disagree with the politically powerful and well-heeled special interests which in reality direct and control many colleges. Thus, the problem usually is less headstrong, secretive presidents in conflict with overbearing or distant trustees than exceedingly feeble combined presidential, trustee, and gubernatorial leadership.

 

One participant and university consultant, William A. Weary, touched on this dynamic in pronouncing amorphous, campus-wide surveys of presidential performances  “garbage,” because they can readily be manipulated by campus constituencies.

 

From what another speaker, former trustee James A Martin Jr., said, one can infer how extremely difficult it will be to reform governance and put in place strong leaders who will hold these forces in check for the well-being of the campuses themselves as well as the public. “If you say the truth,” commented Martin, “you’re marginalized and told you’re not with the team.”

 

Presidents, trustees, and governors do too often join in as mere “team players” and cheerleaders, leaving our campuses rudderless, or, as one critic put it, in a state of “organized anarchy.” And opposition to this modus operandi is summarily quashed, for fear of roiling the political waters.    

 

I suggest that The Chronicle hold another conference–on this lax, three-way, symbiotic “governance” arrangement and the havoc it is wreaking in our universities and society.

Most Popular

Immigration

What Now for Trump’s Border Wall?

The verdict on the U.S.–Mexico border wall President Trump promised to construct is decidedly mixed as the year comes to a close. The “big, beautiful wall,” as Trump referred to it, reached 400 miles in length by the end of October, when the Department of Homeland Security held a ceremony hailing the ... Read More
Immigration

What Now for Trump’s Border Wall?

The verdict on the U.S.–Mexico border wall President Trump promised to construct is decidedly mixed as the year comes to a close. The “big, beautiful wall,” as Trump referred to it, reached 400 miles in length by the end of October, when the Department of Homeland Security held a ceremony hailing the ... Read More

The Imaginary Trump

Like Andrew Jackson, Donald Trump is man who represents the age in which he lived. Whatever you may think of the age. Jackson embodied a generation of men who had risen and made their mark in a young country. He represented their desire for greater representation, even if it had costs for slaves and Indians. He ... Read More

The Imaginary Trump

Like Andrew Jackson, Donald Trump is man who represents the age in which he lived. Whatever you may think of the age. Jackson embodied a generation of men who had risen and made their mark in a young country. He represented their desire for greater representation, even if it had costs for slaves and Indians. He ... Read More
Media

Wajahat Ali, Ctd.

I gather he didn’t like my comment on his New York Times op-ed on the folly of reaching out to Trump supporters. He snipes, “I await The National Review’s piece on reaching out to Biden voters and reading about their ‘elegy’ and understanding their ‘economic anxiety.’” After the 2016 election, ... Read More
Media

Wajahat Ali, Ctd.

I gather he didn’t like my comment on his New York Times op-ed on the folly of reaching out to Trump supporters. He snipes, “I await The National Review’s piece on reaching out to Biden voters and reading about their ‘elegy’ and understanding their ‘economic anxiety.’” After the 2016 election, ... Read More
Film & TV

Bowing Down to Obama

‘How can we miss you when you won’t go away?” political podcaster Yvette Carnell joked two years ago when Barack Obama began his comeback tour by making sideline pronouncements about the state of the nation after his brief retirement. Now the comeback is official, with two new Kool-Aid-drinker Obama ... Read More
Film & TV

Bowing Down to Obama

‘How can we miss you when you won’t go away?” political podcaster Yvette Carnell joked two years ago when Barack Obama began his comeback tour by making sideline pronouncements about the state of the nation after his brief retirement. Now the comeback is official, with two new Kool-Aid-drinker Obama ... Read More