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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

A Few tiny Requests

To Our New President:

Let me begin by welcoming  you to the University of Toledo.  Many of us want nothing more than for you to be a huge success.  I must admit that I am a little surprised you were offered the job given that most of the faculty and staff believe you to be the most qualified applicant.  And, therein lies the reason for this post.  This faculty and previous administrations and Boards of Trustees have not played well in the same sandbox.  Depending on where you stand on a variety of the issues depends on which group you blame.  Some day when you have a minute, a day or perhaps a week I would be happy to fill you in on the last 28 years.  But, the past is not the reason for this post--the future is.  My personal belief is there are several items that as a new President you can attend to that would get us all headed in the correct direction.

1.  Settle the union contract.  Four years of  "negotiating" is ridiculous.  Millions have been given to nonunion members in raises while our erstwhile BOT pleads they have no money.  This continued nonsense is a slap in the face to every faculty member at UT.  Success or failure ultimately depends on who's in the classroom  not who's in the board room. 

2. Transparency.  It's a beautiful word that just rolls off of the tongue.  Everyone talks about it but few practice it.  A recent Blade editorial complained about the search process having a lack of transparency but failed to note in the article that their President/General Manager was the head of the search committee.  If you really want the faculty to believe you are interested in transparency then please place the Blue Book back in the Library archives where anyone can access it.  This is a copy of the university budget that from the 1940s to 2011 was placed in the UT archives located on the fifth floor of the library.  Anyone, student or nonstudent, could access this document.  Starting in 2011 it was removed and placed online.  You needed a password.  Actually you needed several because each section had a different password.  The goal was to make access as difficult as possible.  This past year a copy has been placed on reserve in the library.  This is better but you have to be a member of the UT community in order to gain access.  In other words the average taxpayer still can't get at basic information about UT. This should be an easy fix.
3. There is an old joke about the old CEO telling the new CEO that he/she has left him/her three envelopes in the desk drawer and when he/she runs into trouble open one of the envelopes.  As it so happens after about six months there is trouble so the CEO opens the first letter.  It says blame the previous CEO.  The new CEO does this and it works for a while.  Then there is more trouble and the CEO opens the next envelope.  It says reorganize.  This works for a while and then there is more trouble.  The CEO opens the last envelope.  Its says get three envelopes.  Please do not spend time blaming the previous administration or in attempting to reorganize.  It has long been my belief that if you have the right people almost any organization will do; and, if you have the wrong ones reorganizing will do little to help.  Let us get down the road. 
4.  Leave the jargon and hyperbole at home.  I have been synergized to the point my dishwasher starts every time I walk by it.  Please leave words like "transformative" and "improving the human condition" out of your conversations. Leave the Mission Statement alone.  No one reads it anyway.  I have had all the flowery language I can take for one career.  In plain everyday English tell us what you think needs to be done and how you are planning on helping us achieve this.  You have said you are data driven.  Fine.  Show me the data that drives your decisions.  I have three examples that I believe show why we need data and not opinion.  First you have probably noticed the honors dorms being erected on the west end of campus.  These appeared one day like magic.  There was no discussion about what an Honors College should be and why they need separate dorms. Instead we have someone building dorms for which have guaranteed a specific level of occupancy.  The second example is our Schoolcraft agreement.  Rumor has it that this is for ten years and that we have already sunk over one million dollars into this.  I do not need to be notified every time someone in the administration wants to go to lunch, but it would be far more transparent if people actually had some idea of what was going on.  The third example is about the former College of Arts and Sciences.  The College ran a dean's search and the committee suggested three candidates.  President Jacobs added a fourth over the objection of the committee.  The fourth candidate became the President's  choice to run the college.  While he was a pleasant person, he was not a good dean and the College Council voted no confidence.  The President removed the dean and placed an outside person with almost no academic experience in charge of the college. The President then brought in a consultant (Robert Zemsky) and we had a couple of roundtable discussions.  Actually over 40 of us were invited to participate in these discussions.  And yes forty is a silly number but the President needed all these various folks so he could claim he actually sought out a variety of opinions. After that Zemsky wrote a report and subsequently so did the College Council.  The report, suggesting a new direction for the college,  was submitted and the College was almost immediately disbanded.  It was divided into three separate Colleges.  It was a grand waste of time and money.  Please don't view this as a plea to reform the College.  Just don't make a decision and then pretend to have people discuss it and spend time on it when you have no real interest in anything they have to say.  There are plenty of other examples that include simulators and windmills but others can fill you in.
5. I will not attempt to explain the Blade to you other than to tell you Paul Block was the driving force behind the establishment of a medical college in northwestern Ohio.  For the "rest of the story" you are on your own.  You have the background to be a big success here.  Just let us know beforehand what you want done and why.  We can make this work.