People running universities should have experience running universities.

6 02 2011

You’d think this premise would be uncontroversial: People running universities should have experience running universities. But not in Colorado.

Back in August, the president of my university, Joe Garcia, resigned to run for Lieutenant Governor of Colorado. He won. I was proud to vote for him as I knew he’d be good at the job, but I was also a little annoyed because he had been a very good President. Enrollments are up. Buildings are being built. I looked forward to seeing Joe turn his attention to improving the academic situation on campus.

Joe had an interesting background for academia. He’s a lawyer by training, but he had been a community college president before joining us. Our local paper, the Pueblo Chieftain, is convinced that the less experience a university president has with academia the better they’ll be. So they’ve published a series of editorials making that point, both directly and indirectly.

This is my response to one of those editorials (the last one linked to in the above paragraph). The Chieftain was nice enough to put it on the op-ed page.

I’m not sure it’s going to make a difference in the end because Colorado seems obsessed with having people running universities who have little or no experience running universities. I’ll obviously work with whoever the Board of Governors selects to be the next President of CSU-Pueblo, but finding another Joe Garcia is going to be tough and no matter who the next President is I’ll likely be around campus longer than they are.

Update: I just picked a paper copy of my op-ed and noticed that the Chieftain ran yet another editorial on this same subject today opposite my piece.

Since this post is getting some serious traffic thanks to the illustrious Historiann, let me ask you all this: Are there any other states besides Colorado where a significant number of universities aren’t run by academics or are we on the cutting edge of an unfortunate trend?

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4 responses

6 02 2011
Sunday roundup: unicorns, meritocracies, and humanities grants edition : Historiann : History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present

[...] and the historical profession at large.  See for example his outrageous claim that “People Running Universities Should Have Experience Running Universities.”  (What a contrarian!)  Everyone knows that education–especially higher [...]

6 02 2011
rustonite

The only states I know about are Massachusetts and Louisiana, but in both, the heads-of-campus are all academics, while the heads-of-system (as in, the President of the UMass System, as opposed to the Chancellor of UMass Amherst) are NOT academics, in either state. It makes sense, since the system presidents aren more politician than administrator; they’re the Lobbyists-in-Chief. And it does seem to work out- the system presidents handle the political bullshit that needs to be done to get the legislature to fund the system, while the actual day-to-day running of the schools is handled by professionals.

6 02 2011
rustonite

Although (continuing my post) the UMass System president does have a PhD, even though he hasn’t been an actual academic at any point, really- he’s been a professional administrator.

6 02 2011
Historiann

Colorado seems to be unique in the number of pols who run our unis. I summed them all up back in one of my posts around the Bruce Benson candidacy 3 years ago, but I think now there are even more with the guy at Mesa State. Wasn’t he some state rep or dogcatcher or something?

Next thing we know, someone will nominate Scott McInnis to run CSU-Pueblo! That’s the ticket. . .

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