January 20th is a monumental day in the history of the United States. President-Elect Donald Trump will take the oath of office and assume the presidency from President Obama. Following the oath and inaugural address, Trump will have lunch in the Capital before the start of the Inaugural Parade. In various forms, the parade has occurred since George Washington’s inauguration. Representatives of the armed forces, community groups, and marching bands typically participate in the parade. With the unusual and acerbic nature of Trump’s campaign, colleges and universities that have agreed to participate in this year’s parade have faced controversy and backlash from campus constituencies. In today’s post, I want to share my thoughts on the controversy and why I believe the bands should participate in the parade.
Moving truck outside the White House. January 19, 2001. Photo credit: The New York Times
I approach this issue from a different perspective than many. I have actually marched in a presidential inaugural parade.
Anyone who has worked at a college or university that plays high-level athletics knows the problems that come with athletics. One trend that has exploded in recent years is the dramatic growth in coaching salaries for head coaches and increasingly assistant coaches. The Chronicle of Higher Education recently released data on salaries derived from data submitted by institutional reporting to the internal revenue service. The Dallas Morning News wrote an nice article examining the issue and included my views on the problem.
Photo credit: Star-Telegram
For several years now, Wisconsin has been the focal point in the fight between conservative politicians and higher education. Governor Scott Walker has systematically attacked higher education in Wisconsin resulting in increased accountability, decreased autonomy, and drastic cuts in state appropriations. Of particular note, Governor Walker and the state legislature passed legislation dramatically curtailing the long-held protection of tenure and academic freedom in the state. The flagship campus in Madison has been hit particularly hard by the controversies with other institutions trying to steal faculty and a significant decline in research expenditures. While many may have thought the policy changes were over in Wisconsin, a recent policy change by the Board of Regents will change post-tenure review renewing the concerns of faculty and higher education supporters.
We don’t talk enough in higher education about the damage that governing boards can do to an institution. Trustees have a vital role to play in supporting and leading colleges, but they can make critical decisions that fundamentally undermine the institution they are to guide. The most important role for a governing board is the selection and supervision of the president. In today’s post, I want to make the case that boards have to stop rigging searches when hiring politician as university president.
Kennesaw State President Sam Olens. Photo credit: Marietta Daily Journal
According to the best data currently available from the American Council on Education, 2% of presidents come from the ranks of elected or appointed government officials.
This is a relatively small number, but I suspect when the new data comes out the trend will have increased at least some (the current data is from 2011).
It is easy to understand why governing boards want to look at nontraditional candidates in general and government officials in particular.
For the first time in its history, the Association of Pennsylvania State Colleges and University Faculty went on strike, which ended after a three day impasse. Impacting thousands of faculty and students across 14 public institutions in Pennsylvania, the strike was the latest in an ongoing series of organized labor events occurring across higher education. Union members in Pennsylvania were striking for better wages, health benefits, and academic work conditions. However, I believe the Pennsylvania case is indicative of a much larger issue facing higher education. Namely, faculty unionization in higher education is a symptom of broken governance.
Photo credit: Matt Rourke/AP