Phi Beta Cons

Is There Meaning in Mount St. Mary’s Kerfuffle?

The Mount St. Mary’s saga continues to spur commentary. As you may recall, the recently appointed president, Simon Newman, began firing staff after a spat erupted over his “drown the bunnies” comment and his plan to send unpromising freshmen home. That didn’t go well, and Mr. Newman resigned from his position at the Maryland Catholic college on Monday.

Now people are wondering what the import is. Obviously, Simon didn’t know the “culture” of academia and thought he was running a business, of which (he thought) he was the CEO.

Turns out he was wrong about that.

Jeff Selingo’s commentary from the Washington Post suggersts the problem is a fundamental one:

The controversy at Mount St. Mary’s University in Maryland illustrates the paradoxical challenge facing American higher education: universities need to be run with more of a focus on the bottom line, but at their core, colleges are not corporations.

But Scott Jaschik in Inside Higher Ed suggests that the brouhaha may be a tempest in a teapot.

People who advise boards on presidential hiring don’t expect the Mount St. Mary’s situation, alarming as it would be to many trustees to see a presidency end in under a year, to scare off search committees from seeking nontraditional candidates.

Jane S. ShawJane S. Shaw retired as president of the John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy in 2015. Before joining the Pope Center in 2006, Shaw spent 22 years in ...


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