Friday, November 04, 2005

What it takes to be a college president 

... is an ability to raise money.
In a Chronicle of Higher Education survey of nearly 1,400 four-year college presidents that was released this week, 22 percent described their previous job as nonacademic university vice president or a similar post.

A broader American Council on Education survey found 30 percent of college presidents in 2001 had never held a faculty position, up from 25 percent in 1986. About 15 percent came from outside academia, up from under 9 percent in 1998. Those numbers have likely increased since.
Does this really matter, that college presidents don't have academic backgrounds? As I teach my students, the best two words in economics are "it depends". You need someone who is an academic leader to make the difficult decisions on things like, for example, Ward Churchill. But there also has to be someone that has their eyes on the broader aspects of the university. There really is more to it than just being a scholar. Take the story Trevor found about UNC-Chapel Hill buying laptops for their less-well paid employees. That's a great example of someone thinking about something not really academic in nature, but understanding the core business of a university. A president as a leader builds a team that encourages actions like this; that skill doesn't depend on one's knowledge of Chaucer, Darwin or Milton Friedman.