[Paleopsych] CHE Colloquy Transcript: What College Presidents Think

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What College Presidents Think
The Chronicle of Higher Education: Colloquy Transcript
[I forgot to send in my question!]

    Thursday, November 3, at 12 p.m., U.S. Eastern time
    The topic
    An extensive Chronicle survey of college presidents, the first of its
    kind, provides a rare glimpse at the leaders of the profession: how
    they spend their time both on the job and off; their politics; whether
    they think they were prepared for their jobs (a minority says yes);
    how future college leaders might be better prepared; and what they
    think about the myriad issues facing higher education today.
    The office, increasingly similar to that of corporate chief executive,
    is still occupied largely by white men who rose through the
    administrative ranks. Yet an overwhelming majority agree on few key
    higher-education issues, including tenure, student drinking, college
    athletics, and rising tuition costs.
    Are the survey results surprising? What do they say about the state of
    the college president today? Are presidents today weaker or stronger
    than in the past? Do they seem to spend their time wisely? Do the
    survey results suggest that American higher education is in good
    hands? Are the right kinds of people rising to leadership positions?
    What questions should we have asked?
      » [54]What College Presidents Think: Leaders' Views About Higher
    Education, Their Jobs, and Their Lives (11/4/2005)
    The guests
    John DiBiaggio was president of Tufts University from 1992 to 2001,
    and before that he led Michigan State University and the University of
    Connecticut. He is now a consultant with Academic Search Consultation
    Service, a higher-education executive-search firm.
    John Maguire, former dean of admissions at Boston College, is chairman
    of Maguire Associates, an educational-consulting firm in Bedford,
    Mass., that conducted the survey and analyzed the results for The

                      A transcript of the chat follows.

    Jeffrey Selingo (Moderator):
        Hello everyone, I'm Jeffrey Selingo, business and politics editor
    at The Chronicle. This week The Chronicle published the results of an
    extensive survey of 4-year college presidents that was conducted over
    the summer. It showed, among other things, that a majority of college
    presidents are more worried about financial issues than educational
    ones, want to do away with faculty tenure, and voted for John Kerry in
    last year's presidential election.

    With us today to discuss the results are John DiBiaggio, a former
    president at three institutions, including most recently at Tufts
    University, and now a presidential search consultant, and John
    Maguire, chairman of Maguire Associates, which analyzed the results
    for The Chronicle.

    Let's get started and submit your questions at any point.

    Jeffrey Selingo (Moderator):
        Before we get to the questions, both guests have some opening
    comments to get us going.

    John Maguire:
        After serving as a faculty member and Dean at Boston College, I
    founded Maguire Associates in 1983 and now serve as its Chair. Over
    the last 22 years we have served hundreds of clients and have
    contributed to the evolution of market research and consulting in
    higher education. In the last 10 years I have worked with 200 or more
    college and university presidents and served on several Boards. The
    survey findings corroborate what we have been hearing on the ground.
    Clearly, as the survey documents, fundraising and budget issues are
    highly important to presidents as they have to be in order for any
    institution to survive. What surprised us was the emphasis on money
    issues relative to some others. However, theres a big difference
    between the type of institution that chooses to raise funds in order
    to initiate an exciting new program, and one that must raise money to
    avoid layoffs or curtailing programs.

    The data in the survey are a treasure trove of information about the
    realities of the college presidency today, and as we mine the data
    further we expect to expand greatly on the understandings that have
    already been achieved.

    John DiBiaggio:
        The principal issues I found interesting in the survey were
    these:(1) finances, particularly rising health care costs and
    diminishing state support at public institutions; (2) increasing
    emphasis on private fund raising, at both the private and public
    colleges; (3) escalation in tuition and fees and concomitant public
    concerns in that regard(4) enrollment and retention issues(5) growing
    demands for accountability; (6) the all encompassing nature of the
    role, allowing little or no time for leisure or personal relationships
    outside of the institution; (7) reluctance to speak out on issues that
    may have any political implications, i.e., stem cell research, the
    death penalty, birth control; (8) faculty tenure( which I basically
    favor), particularly the virtual impossibility of firing a tenure
    faculty member, even when the violation(s) clearly merit doing so. I
    was a little surprised that deferred maintenance, decreased federal
    student aid and ever growing regulatory requirements were not cited as
    areas of major concern.

    Question from Paula Rooney, Dean College:
        Is there a difference in the perception of the Presidency and the
    time requirements between the genders and additionally those who have
    small children during their tenure?
    John Maguire:
        There definitely are significant differences between the genders
    in this study. Women presidents are more likely to understand the
    importance of campus morale and student outcomes than many of their
    male counterparts. As for the specific question about presidents with
    small children, this was not addressed directly in the survey -- nor
    do I recall any direct reference in the open-ended comments. Given the
    fact that only 6% of all respondents were under 50, it would have been
    difficult to get meaningful statistics even if we had asked about
    children at home.

    Question from D. Gail, research university:
        Two questions:

    l. Why do women continue to make up only 18-20% of college

    2. I thought, per the literature, that the traditional path to the
    presidency was through the academic ranks? Are there often used
    administrative paths or is selection more random?
    John Maguire:
        The numbers of women at the top in academe are growing at a faster
    rate than in businessnow at 26% in the Northeast. This still reflects
    proportions on faculties and in higher level administration. Boards
    who select presidents are still male dominated, but that too is

    As for the second question: Chair to Dean to Provost is the
    traditional route. Marketing, enrollment, and financial VPs now move
    up more often.

    Question from Ed Merwin, Jr., Univ. of South Carolina Salkehatchie:
        Were you surprised by the number of presidents who wanted to do
    away with tenure? Average salaries for College/University presidents
    easily run around $500,000 per anum. When a president leaves, he/she
    is usually "well compensated; to help with retirement. Teaching
    faculty, even department heads, can only dream of such rewards. Tenure
    MUST be retained, if we are to encourage research, scholarship, and
    effective teaching.
    John DiBiaggio:
        No I was not surprised. Not because most presidents feel that
    tenure is not important in terms of protecting academic freedom, but
    rather because they perceive it to have become more of an issue of job
    security. Many feel that it is almost impossible to dismiss a tenured
    faculty member, even when their behavior may have been very
    aggregious. However I personally feel that academic freedom is still
    very important. You suggest that average presidential salaries run
    around $500,000 per annum. I don't believe that to be the case except
    in a few exceptional circumstances. I certainly didn't receive that
    type of compensation during my presidencies.

    Question from Vanasa McCallister, Michigan State University:
        It was stated that student retention rates are one of the key
    goals/concerns of today's college president. With the stated need for
    constant fiduciary communication regarding funding and a balanced
    budget, what recommendations would you have to increase student
    retention rates, especially those from ethnic minority backgrounds and
    returning adult students when these populations are more likely to
    need funding and new programs, not generate revenue?
    John Maguire:
        Good retention will almost always help with the revenue side of
    the budget. There are many approaches to improving retentionrelated to
    orientation, connecting students, especially those at risk, to faculty
    advisors and mentors, and to improving programs and documenting value.

    Question from Andrew Hacker, Queens College (NYC):
        I note that "quality of faculty" ranks third among presidential
    "worries". What does this mean? Are they dissatisfied with, say, the
    intellectual capacities of their professors? Do they worry that they
    can't attract good people? Or keep them? Or are too many of their
    professors slacking off? Can you give me a few presidents' quotes, as
    they expanded on this worry? Many thanks.
    John Maguire:
        All of the above. Research we've done over the years connects
    "quality of faculty" with everything from academic achievement,
    scholarship, and teaching capability to civility and ability to mentor

    Question from Administrator, U. of Texas:
        I was discouraged to see that only 19% of presidents come from
    within their own institutions. What's your advice to someone who wants
    to become a president, but is place-bound?
    John DiBiaggio:
        That is a dissappointing statistic, but I'm afraid one that is far
    to accurate. Unfortunatley universities feel they need to bring in a
    president from outside their own campus. I believe that to be a
    short-sighted view because there may be well qualified people within
    their own instyitutions and those people will have the advantage of
    knowing the institution well, eliminating the need for a significant
    learning curve. In the searches I conduct, I urge the committees
    responsible to not overlook internal candidated who merit
    consideration. I guess it is always dificult to be ahero in your own

    Question from C. Dreifus, Columbia Univeristy:
        I was surprised to read on the study how many college Presidents
    thought that quality of the faculty was an issue of concern. Could you
    say more? Is this a concern about full time tenured faculty and what
    they are producing, the quality of adjuncts that are being attracted
    at adjunct pay, what? The response intriqued, but cried for
    John Maguire:
        This was partially addressed in response to a previous question.
    Over the years we've done factor analysis to identify variables that
    "quality of faculty" associates with. Needless to say, this is a very
    multi-layered variable, and the issues you raise are often a part of
    the concern. Based on the survey, we can't say much more - very few of
    the open-ended responses addressed the issue of faculty quality.
    Certainly this is a question that would benefit from further research.

    Question from Mathew Kanjirathinkal:
        What do college presidents gain by viewing themsleves as CEO's of
    a corporation, and what do they lose? How do they reconcile the
    differences between corporate culture and academic culture in dealing
    with their stakeholders?
    John DiBiaggio:
        I don't really believe that college and university presidents
    perceive themselves as the presidents of a corporation. Neither do
    they believe or see their colleges or universities as businese. On the
    other hand they recognize that in these difficult financial times they
    have to behave in a more business like manner, while appreciating that
    there is a distinct difference in the cultures of an academic
    environment and a corporation or business. I trust that they will
    behave accordingly.

    Question from Raymond Linville, Radford University:
        What recommendations would you make to college presidents about
    being skilled in dealings with the media, especially in regard to
    potentially controversial topics?
    John DiBiaggio:
        Well this is a dificult question because of the increasing
    political inclinations of many who serve as trustees or regants.
    However, in my view, university and college presidents are still
    highly respected in our society and their views are given serious
    consideration. I believe, therefore, that they have a responsibility
    to speak out on important social issues, especially in areas in which
    they have expertise. I also recognize that in can be dificult to do
    so, especially in these very emotionally-charges times.

    Question from Jeffrey Selingo:
        Were you surprised that so many presidents were open out their
    opinions on hot-button issues in the survey?
    John DiBiaggio:
        I did not perceive that there was an openess to discuss hot-buttom
    issues except in a confidential format. I have been dissapointed by
    the lack of outspokeness by presidents in the past. While it can be
    dificult to do so I still think it is important that the pulpit
    provided to a president be used in a manner that is helpful in
    resolving critical issues.

    Question from Andrew Mytelka, Chronicle of Higher Ed:
        Two questions. Based on the survey results, what should
    presidential-search committees be doing that they are not typically
    doing now? And should presidential-search committees be set up
    differently than they typically are (e.g., different membership,
    different size, etc.)?
    John DiBiaggio:
        I think search committees need to be truly representative of the
    community and of a size that is manageable. I think they should also
    be open to candidates from a diversity of backgrounds and not preclude
    consideratiuon of internal candidates. Clearly the demands of the
    positions have grown over the years and candidates should have the
    ability to deal with the multiplicity of issues that the contemporary
    president encounters.

    Jeffrey Selingo (Moderator):
        We're about half way through today's discussion. Please keep your
    questions coming.

    Question from Jeffrey Selingo:
        What are we to make of the number of presidents who never attend
    religious services given that the U.S. is a fairly religious country?
    John Maguire:
        11% is not a particularly surprising number. Recent CIRP
    (UCLA/Astin) studies show that an increasing number of entering
    freshmen nationally (and their parents) are not specifying any
    religious preference. The data on presidents are quite consistent with
    national trends.

    Question from Jeffrey Selingo:
        Presidents said in the survey they don't socialize with friends
    very often probably because they don't have time. Is it damaging to a
    presidency if the person in the position becomes too lonely and
    disconnected from reality?
    John DiBiaggio:
        I think it is very dificult for anyone in a position of leadership
    to have close relationships with anyone at work. I encourage
    presidents to maintain friendships outside of work if possible. The
    hesitancy that some have to develop too close a relationship with
    others on campus is the fear that they will be based on some sort of
    personal gain. I think it is critical to have a life beyond the campus
    and many achieve that by having homes in other areas to which they can
    occasionally escape.

    Question from Ben Davis:
        It appears from the articles that many - if not most - presidents
    were surprised by the fiduciary responsibilities they assumed with the
    position. Is that the case or were they merely reflecting the
    increasing emphasis on that aspect of their duties?
    John DiBiaggio:
        Well I think its both. The responsiblilites have grown because of
    financial management in part because of reductions of state support at
    public institutions and the ever increasing need to raise money in the
    privates. Additionally universities provide more services than in the
    pst which are not only costly but also require increased oversight.
    Todays universities are huge complexes often including residence
    halls, food services, security, as well as a number amenities that
    students expect.

    Jeffrey Selingo (Moderator):
        We got a few questions from community colleges about why they were
    not included. The issues that presidents of two-year institutions face
    are different in some ways than those of four-year colleges. As a
    result, it was difficult to design a survey to include both. We hope
    to do a similar survey of two-year college presidents at some point in
    the future.

    Question from Jeffrey Selingo:
        John Maguire has something to add on that point as well, John?
    John Maguire:
        While I won't presume to speak for The Chronicle on this question,
    we did discuss the option of surveying all 3,000+ American
    institutions of higher education at one time and agreed that the
    differences across institution types were significant enough to
    warrant separate studies. As you may have noted, the present survey
    was already quite lengthy, and adding further complexity would likely
    have reduced the response rate considerably.

    Question from Jeffrey Selingo:
        This is a question to both guests: We see this emphasis on
    finances and fundraising in the survey, yet boards typically hire
    academics. Will we ever, and when, see more CFO's and development
    officers move into the ranks of presidents?
    John Maguire:
        We are already seeing CFOs, marketing and development officers
    moving into the presidency. In my travels I have seen changes just
    within the past few years in the makeups of client presidencies. And
    more often today, CFOs have broader perspectives on academic
    programming, student life, and marketing, which will make them better
    candidates for future presidencies. We are also seeing provosts whose
    perspectives are broadening in the other direction. Given that over
    50% of the presidents are over 60, there will be a major turnover in
    college presidencies in the next decade. This broadened perspective
    and active mentoring will be essential to ensure that qualified
    candidates emerge--both internally and externally.

    Question from Raymond Linville, Radford University:
        More experience with fund raising was reported as a need for
    college presidents. What can they do to better acquire these skills?
    John DiBiaggio:
        That is indeed the case at both public and private institutions.
    In the public sector as reductions have occured in state support the
    need for fundraising to maintain the integrity of programs has become
    more common. In the private sector there has always been a need for
    private support, but this has even become more intensive in recent
    years. The increased burden on students and their families due to
    rising tuition and fees has made the need for fundraising even more
    critical in order to provide student aid. Very few presidents have had
    preparation to engage in extensive fundraising and have to learn it
    through trial and error, however, they seem to manage to do so with
    the help of their development officers, especially if one measures
    their success by the reports of capital campaigns seeming to achieve
    their goals.

    Question from Diane; small community college:
        What results did you find most surprising when comparing the
    survey results between presidents of private and public institutions?
    John Maguire:
        I was surprised that the public presidents were so much less
    likely than private presidents to be "highly satisfied" with their
    compensation package (13% versus 35%). Also, I would not necessarily
    have predicted that public presidents were substantially more likely
    to have been provosts or chief academic officers than private
    presidents (42% versus 26%). Finally, public presidents were almost
    twice as likely to view retention as a "very great concern" as private
    presidents (50% versus 29%).

    Question from Jeffrey Selingo:
        John, could the findings of this survey be useful to search
    committees in looking for a president or boards as they evaluate
    John DiBiaggio:
        I believe so because it does seem to spell out the
    responsibilities that a president must now assume. Search committees
    should look for candidates who have the requisite skills to carry out
    those responsibilities. It is obvious that a president must spend a
    considerable amount of time on external affairs, including
    fundraising. This suggests that other may be responsible for day to
    day operational matters, and the current president must be able to
    delegate and oversee those activities.

    Jeffrey Selingo (Moderator):
        We have a few more minutes, so if you have a question to ask,
    please do it now. We have a few more to get to yet.

    Question from Lisa Atkins, Univ. of Central Florida:
        Given the current situation at American University, what is your
    stance on Presidents as role models? As a future student affairs
    administrators, it disappoints me to see the growing number of senior
    administrators that are being exposed for wrongful spending. I wonder,
    how do these particular individuals think that what they've done is
    John DiBiaggio:
        I do believe that presidents are role models not only for the
    students at their institutions, but their communities at large. I
    believe their behavior should reflect that important responsibility,
    and I have been cognisant of that. I have been embarrassed as have
    others, by the personal conduct of a few of our colleagues but I am
    pleased that that is indeed a limited minority. The vast majority of
    college and university presidents have exemplory behavior, and I
    believe are superb role models for others to emulate.

    Question from Andrew Mytelka, Chronicle of Higher Ed:
        The survey found that 60% of presidents think big-time college
    sports are more of a liability than an asset. The presidents also said
    athletic ability should be accorded the lowest weight in admissions
    decisions in comparison to such other factors as socioeconomic status,
    race/ethnicity, artistic ability, ability to pay full tuition, and
    gender. How come we rarely hear college presidents speaking out about
    their true views of the role of college sports?
    John DiBiaggio:
        I among others believe college sports have an important role on
    our campuses for those who have the skill to participate, for those
    who enjoy watching sports, and for school spirit and moral. The
    over-commercialization of sports have led to behaviors that all
    universities should find unacceptable - lowering academic standards
    for the admission of skilled athletes, obscene salaries being paid to
    coaches in major sports, construction of expensive athletic abilities
    when other critical needs are left unmet, and scheduling of sports
    events during times when students should be attending classes, are
    some examples of behaviors that should not be permitted. In my view,
    these issues can only be addressed at the campus level by
    institutional leadership, rather than through a vehicle such as the

    Jeffrey Selingo (Moderator):
        That's all we have time for today. Sorry we couldn't get to all
    the questions. Thanks to both guests today for making time in their
    schedule for this chat.

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