Monday, August 22, 2016

If a university is a business, then it has to respond to its stakeholders

I am really bad at following up.

On February 10, I wrote a post about Mount St. Mary's University and its president, Simon Newman. I noted that President Newman had done some controversial things at the time, including the firing of a tenured professor for "disloyalty." If you know anything about how faculties operate, the faculty was not going to let that go by quietly.

In my post, I wrote:

How will this issue be resolved? Will dedicated faculty throughout the globe unite in an effort to champion academic freedom?

Perhaps...but it would have no effect.

The one way that Mount St. Mary's issues will be resolved will be by a method that President Newman clearly understands: money. If critical donors decide that the environment at Mount St. Mary's is so toxic that donations dry up, rest assured that President Newman will be asked to seek other employment.

So I wrote and posted this on Feburary 10...and failed to follow up.

So what happened? By the end of the month, Newman was gone. But not just because of the firing and the bunnies (oh, yes, the bunnies). He was running into other issues.

In February, the situation for the university worsened when its regional accreditor, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, asked the university to provide answers on a series of issues on which Newman's policies and actions may have violated the agency's rules.

But it's one thing to get the ire of the Middle States Commission. It's another thing to get the ire even higher authority.

[Newman] was quoted criticizing the liberal arts emphasis and promoted recruiting efforts that downplayed both liberal arts and the Catholic tradition.

Among the most surprising developments was when several Mount St. Mary's employees and ex-employees confirmed reports that he asked colleagues, "Why are there so many crucifixes?" on the campus. Answer: Mount St. Mary's has a seminary and is among the nation's oldest Catholic colleges.

Well, perhaps Someone contacted the Board or the President or both, because by the end of the month, Newman resigned and made a nice statement that someone else wrote for him, and the Board made a nice statement that someone else wrote for them.

Today, the school has an interim President - Brig. Gen. Timothy Trainor. But don't call him that.

He’s asked people not to refer to him by his rank, but rather “Dr. Trainor” (his doctorate in industrial engineering comes from North Carolina State University) or “President Trainor” — titles he feels are more appropriate for his role.

Oh, and before he attended North Carolina State University or West Point, he attended a Catholic high school in New Jersey.

So presumably he doesn't object to the crucifixes around campus.

P.S. According to LinkedIn, Simon Newman has been unemployed since February. But boy did he do a good job in his last position:

Mount St. Mary's University
December 2014 – February 2016 (1 year 3 months)Emmitsburg, Maryland
Unanimously elected the 25th President of MSMU. Hired as a change agent to reposition the University to grow, improve its financial position, strengthen its Catholic identity, raise its academic reputation and be more student centric.

Developed Mount 2.0 - a new Vision for the future of the University, following a rigorous internal and external review of its market position, capabilities, finances, operations, and operating principals. The Mission: double enrollment within 10 years; become a top 10 regional school; top 25 nationally ranked Catholic University.

Achievements included:
- Reduced costs by $3MM; eliminated $10MM of liabilities.
- Initiated and negotiated pending $100+ MM donation/JV.(largest in history)
- Proposed pending $500MM JV with FEMA for an int’l center for Emergency Management (incl. moving I-15)
- Invited Pope Francis, and welcomed President Barack Obama to campus.
- New summer program at Cambridge University; JV with Cambridge Security Initiative.
- Rebuilt management team; hired new Rector, Provost, CTO and VP Student Affairs.
- Introduced new technologies including Workday accounting system, student system and CRM; tripled internet bandwidth; 4 new student lounges; new state-of-the-art classrooms; new learning management system; new athletics training technologies.
- Initiated new academic offerings - appealing to students based on market research:
o New degree programs in growth areas such as forensic accounting, cyber-security, entrepreneurism, and PP&E; plus new courses in high-interest areas.
o Reduced core from 68 to 49 credits.
o Initiated development of a center for student success and leadership.
- Doubled faculty development budget; largest faculty salary increase in years.
- Started Career Pathways Initiative; increased students' access to better career options.
- Added programs in diving, swimming, athletics and rugby.
- Started Presidential Lecture series including largest media event ever held on campus - Justice in America

Unfortunately, none of his colleagues saw fit to give him a reference for that job.

Compare this to the biography of the man who served as President of Reed College when I attended there. Paul Bragdon doesn't have a LinkedIn profile, so this is taken from another source.

Reed’s trustees...were looking for a leader to navigate Reed out of the financial doldrums into which the college had drifted. Inheriting a meager endowment—which had been reduced to about $4.4 million—Bragdon assured a wary faculty he was committed “to improving the resources of the college as a means of sustaining quality and enriching our programs.”

Reed, he counseled, should improve fiscal prospects not at the expense of quality but as a result of it. He was true to his words. As annual giving tripled to $2.4 million in four years, eventually reaching $24 million in a single year, frugality gave way to prudent investment in academic expansion, enriched student life, and structural maintenance. Departmental status for Spanish, majors in Asian studies along with art and history, restoration of the senior symposium, new visiting professorships and faculty chairs, enlargement of Hauser Library and establishment of the Douglas F. Cooley Memorial Art Gallery, construction of Vollum College Center and a studio arts building, and pioneering programs in computing and educational technology were all achievements of the Bragdon years.

Bragdon’s “Campaign for Reed” raised $65 million in his final five years—putting Reed’s first capital campaign $20 million over goal—and he left the college with a 16-fold increase in endowment and a $2 million reserve. When he departed, Bragdon had handed diplomas to 40 percent of all Reed graduates.

Fifteen years after leaving Reed, Bragdon served as interim President as crosstown school Lewis & Clark College. (Have I told the joke about Watzek's donations to Reed and Lewis & Clark?) At the time, he made the following observation:

First, any president anywhere should be devoted to saying the same thing to each constituency of the College. The emphasis chosen and the language used might vary based on the interests of the listener, but it should be the same essential message.

Second, the College’s constituents are entitled to some straightforward statements about what the institution is and where it hopes to go—what its problems are, what its strengths are, and the plan for moving forward.

Third, you can assume that one who is or wants to be a college president is an ambitious person. I think we should be looking for someone who will tie that ambition to this institution—someone who understands that personal ambition is achieved by aligning it with institutional interests.

Overall, the president serves an educational role, but not in the classroom. It’s necessary to enlist the support and cooperation of a lot of people to get things done over a long period of time, which means a lot of consultation, a lot of testing of ideas, and a lot of listening.

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