Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Giving Presidents Tenure

By Richard Vedder

Increasingly, universities are treating presidents as untouchable icons that must be kept in office no matter how egregious their behavior. In short, they are being given something close to tenure. That may be good for faculty, although even that is a very debatable, dubious proposition. But it makes zero sense for university presidents. I deplore the trend to long term contracts for presidents, thinking that agreements of more than three years in duration involve enormous financial commitments and lead to "imperial presidents" who may exercise leadership --but often at the expense of disastrous policies and poor morale.

West Virginia University's Faculty Senate has asked for the removal of their president in light of the granting of a degree to a relative of the governor. The Provost and business school dean were removed, but somehow the Trustees feel the President does not share responsibility, despite the fact that he apparently knew all about the incident (as an ex-lobbyist, I would not be surprised that he prompted giving her the degree).

At my university, the Board of Trustees ignored strong no confidence votes in the president from both the student body and faculty --and gave him a long term contract this year that extends until he reaches retirement age. At a community college up the road, a whole litany of scandals including dubiously awarded degrees, financial improprieties, etc., has led to no action on the part of the board to remove a president in his 40th year of leadership.

Where is the accountability? Where are the accreditation associations who are supposedly our protection from mediocrity and inappropriate conduct?

1 comment:

Ken D. said...

Nepotism for the partners of top executives is another oddity of our public higher education system.

In our State public universities routinely create very high-paying jobs for under-qualified partners of senior executives above a certain level in the management hierarchy at each campus. No one seems to question why this anachronistic practice is allowed to continue at taxpayer expense.