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The Precarious Profession of University President

By Gary C. Fethke and Andrew J. Policano

The time in office for public-university presidents is shrinking rapidly, notwithstanding the recent reinstatement of the University of Virginia’s president, Teresa A. Sullivan. The high turnover, while alarming, should not be surprising. Average inflation-adjusted state appropriations per student for higher education fell 24 percent from 1986 to 2011, just as public universities have been asked to enroll increasing numbers of often less prepared students while maintaining quality.

Such financial challenges call for bold changes, which is precisely what universities are least accustomed to doing. Presidents find themselves sandwiched between state legislatures and governing boards demanding significant shifts in how the university operates, and faculty senates defending an academic culture that is both resilient and excruciatingly resistant to change. Think of the dilemma for a university president who faces the threat of dismissal by the governing board for failing to react quickly, and the ire of a hostile faculty if real change is begun. No wonder the reward for most university presidents who do little other than seek consensus is a short tenure in office.

Visit: http://chronicle.com/article/The-Precarious-Profession-of/132987/

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