"The way a team plays as a whole determines its success.  You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don't play together, the club won't be worth a dime." ....Babe Ruth.

Commentary of the Day - July 6, 2012: Wanted, a New Chancellor for the CSU.

According to a recent article in The Los Angeles Times, the Board of Trustees of the California State University system has begun the search for a new Chancellor to lead the system through the most challenging period in the history of the 23 campus system.

The challenges facing the system are manifold.  State support for the CSU system has declined precipitously during the past decade.  At the same time, tuition costs have risen rapidly, even while the number of students seeking admission has reached record numbers.  The morale of faculty and staff members appears to be at an all time low.  Most have received no pay increases in the past four to five years, and most have had to endure furloughs that effectively cut their compensation during the worst of the recession.  The Cal State system also has been burdened, like most of higher education, with an entrenched administrative bureaucracy that continues to grow in size and cost faster, in percentage terms, than either the size of the faculty or the size of the student body.  Another challenge arises from the fact that the CSU has an exceptionally diverse student body.  Many CSU students are first generation college goers, and many come to the university underprepared for the rigors of college work.

Unfortunately, the record of the Board of Trustees in choosing Chancellors to oversee the system has been less than stellar.  The past three holders of that position all have left a lot to be desired.  W. Ann Reynolds, who was appointed Chancellor in 1980 and who served in the position until 1990, had decent enough academic credentials.  But, her imperious management style, which earned her the nickname "Queen Ann," together with her propensity to award herself and other top administrators overly generous pay raises led to her forced resignation.  Reynolds went on to serve as president of the City University of New York, and as president of the University of Alabama at Birmingham.  Her tenure in both of those positions appears to be marked by similar controversies.

The trustees replaced Reynolds with Barry Munitz, who had served as president of the University of Houston from 1977 to 1982, and vice president of Maxxam, Inc. from 1982 until 1991.  Though he held a Ph.D. in comparative literature from Princeton, Munitz had little in the way of teaching or scholarly credentials.  He was appointed president of the University of Houston at the age of 35.  Munitz attempted to change the culture of the CSU by introducing to the system management practices common in the business world.  These included largely unsuccessful attempts to introduce a system of merit pay for faculty members, placing greater demands on campus presidents to raise funds from private sources, and requiring all the campuses in the system to adopt a system-wide common financial and data management system.  The system eventually chosen turned out to be extraordinarily costly to implement.  Munitz left the CSU in 1998 to become president and CEO of the J. Paul Getty Trust.  His tenure at the Getty Trust was marked by controversy, and eventually he was forced to resign when expense account improprieties were discovered.

The trustees then filled the post of Chancellor with Charles B. Reed, who at the time was Chancellor of the State University System of Florida.  Reed's academic credentials were weak compared to his predecessors.  He held three degrees from George Washington University, a BS in physical education, an M.A. in secondary education, and an Ed.D. in teacher education.  Reed had only six years of teaching experience at the college level before becoming director of the  National Project for the American Association of Colleges and Teacher Education at GWU.  From there he moved into a staff position at the Florida Department of Education, and then he served as chief of staff to Florida's governor before being named Chancellor of the State University System of Florida.

Reed's tenure as Chancellor of the CSU has been marked by an extraordinarily contentious relationship with the faculty -- even when compared to his predecessors.  Over the course of his tenure Academic Senates on several campuses have passed resolutions of no confidence in Reed's leadership.  For his part, until quite recently, it seemed that Reed seldom missed an opportunity to show his disrespect for the faculty.  As an example, he seldom attended meetings of the statewide Academic Senate.  And when he did attend those meetings he often was gruff in his demeanor towards the faculty members in attendance.

With this as background, the IP holds only a slim hope that the current CSU Board of Trustees will do better than previous Boards in their selection of the next Chancellor of the system.  However, he would like to offer the current Board a few suggestions about what they might look for in the next person to hold the position.  None of these are guaranteed to find a person better suited to the job than the previous three Chancellors, but then again, they might.

First, attempt to find someone who has had a decent amount of teaching experience at the university level on a campus or campuses similar to those in the CSU system.  The primary mission of the CSU is teaching, and it might help to have someone in the job who has spent at least a decade teaching and working with students similar to those found in CSU classrooms.

Second, look for someone who also has come up through the administrative ranks within academia, and who has a reputation for respecting students, faculty members and staff members.  Leaders who respect their subordinates, employees and "customers" generate support in return.

Third, look for someone who has a decent level of respect for scholarship -- scholarship is what renews and reinvigorates members of the faculty.  The CSU has an estimable reputation for involving its students in the scholarly and creative activities of its faculty members, providing students with additional learning experiences.

Fourth, look for someone who understands that the mission of the university is not to provide students with training for the first job, but with an education that will allow them to find their second, and third jobs while continuing to learn for the rest of their lives.

Fifth, try to find someone who is committed to reducing the administrative bloat that continues to eat up precious funds, and leaves the system with a cadre of administrators tripping over each other in their attempts to feather their own nests and expand their own empires.  Realize that the most effective administrations are those that are lean and hungry, not fat and lazy.

Sixth, look for someone committed to shared sacrifice.  The CSU is in deep financial trouble.  Those at the top as well as at the bottom will need to sacrifice to keep the system afloat.

Seventh, look for someone who can communicate well with the public.  It's important to restore public confidence in and support for the CSU.

Finally, try to find a person with a reputation for bringing people together.  All segments of the university as well as the governor and state legislators need to work together to help the system find its way through the difficult times ahead.

And, it might not hurt if the person chosen can walk on water....

Irascible Professor invites your  .

© 2012 Dr. Mark H. Shapiro - All rights reserved.
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