Missouri fires controversial professor. Were they right?

The fallout from the protests on the racial environment at the University of Missouri continues. The university has fired Melissa Click, an assistant professor in communications. Click was videoed calling for “muscle” to help remove a student reporter and became a lightning rod for critics of the protesters. After voting to fire her, the board acknowledged the process used to terminate Click was not typical. This seems to be the only point where everyone agrees. Today, I want to tackle the question of whether they were right to fire her.

Photo credit: Mark Schierbecker/AP Images

To begin, I find Professor Click’s behavior disappointing and reprehensible. I don’t know her, but I have colleagues that I can see being a part of the protest and even responding in similar ways.

I don’t consider that part of my role as a faculty member. It doesn’t mean that I’m right and she’s wrong— necessarily. We just view our roles differently.

Practitioners need to learn scholarly writing

My entire career has been spent teaching and working with graduate students who are also practitioners. I’ve worked with college presidents and vice presidents far along in their careers as well as new master’s students just starting theirs. During this time, I’ve had many conversations with colleagues and students regarding how to best prepare practitioners in practice not focusing on research . Common questions include the necessity of theory, teaching technical skills, and the value of case studies for offering a glimpse into “real life.” One of the most common questions that come up in these discussions is the role of scholarly writing. Do students need to write a dissertation? What should that look like for practitioners versus future scholars? Should class assignments mirror real life problems or the abstract world of scholarship. In today’s post, I want to explain why I think practitioners need to learn scholarly writing.

Photo credit: A. Birkan Caghan

Scholarly writing is hard. It is easy to say some students can do it and other can’t. This simply isn’t true.

Designing environments to encourage student learning

We do a notoriously poor job teaching graduate students how to teach. Graduate programs devote tremendous energy into delivering content knowledge while pedagogy is all but ignored. Yet, we know that many graduate students will be teaching whether in undergraduate classes or in other professional settings. Content knowledge is vital, yet it is not the only component needed when teaching. In addition, one needs to understand how to design environments to encourage student learning and how to work with students. In today’s post, I will focus on designing positive learning environments.

Photo credit: planzeichnen

Teaching is hard work. It often doesn’t come easy and requires effort to improve.

Leadership lessons from George H.W. Bush

President George H.W. Bush is an intriguing political figure. He was a popular wartime president and foreign policy expert. Yet, his presidency was only one term due to failings in communication and domestic policy. I recently read Jon Meacham’s excellent biography, Destiny and Power:  The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush. As an old history major, I find biographies fascinating. Meacham’s account was quite well done and left me thinking about leadership lessons from George H.W. Bush.

Photo courtesy: PBS

George H.W. Bush was as well prepared to assume the presidency as anyone in modern history. He was a decorated pilot in World War II.  He served in Congress, as Ambassador to the United Nations, Republican National Committee chair, and eight years as Vice President.

Bush lead during a time of tremendous change with the collapse of the Soviet Union, the reunification of Germany, and the first Gulf War.

However, President Bush also struggled with communicating his vision for the country as well as his domestic policy priorities.

In addition, he was distrusted by movement conservatives within his own party which confronted him through much of his political career.

After reading Meacham’s book, three leadership lessons seem relevant for higher education leaders and more generally.

Mount St. Mary’s president should be fired

Another day, another crisis in shared governance. This time the crisis has roiled Mount St. Mary’s University, a small private, liberal arts, Catholic university in Emmitsburg, Maryland. Mount St. Mary’s hired Simon Newman, a former private equity director, as president in December, 2014. He had no experience in higher education but at the time of his hiring said his career gave him experience in fundraising, marketing, and strategic planning. In recent days, the campus has erupted in controversy with a plan to weed out likely to fail students, firing faculty critics, and forcing the resignation of the provost. There is only one appropriate conclusion to this episode, Mount St. Mary’s president should be fired.

Photo credit: Mount St. Mary’s

It is attractive to small universities that struggle financially to recruit a powerful business executive with a history of raising money. After all, the institution desperately needs fiscal stability. However, especially at small universities, presidents must be able to successfully navigate the faculty and academic responsibilities of the institution.

Clearly, Mr. Newman has failed on this front.

If I served as one of the university’s trustees, I would immediately move to fire Simon Newman and for cause.