ERIC Number: EJ791973
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2008-Apr-4
Reference Count: N/A
A College President's Job Is to Shape a Center That Holds
Nelson, Stephhen J.
Chronicle of Higher Education, v54 n30 pA37 Apr 2008
The recent resignation and hasty departure of Gene R. Nichol as president of the College of William and Mary has prompted the usual round of speculation about the state of the college presidency. Why do certain circumstances doom well-intentioned people and their presidencies? What determines success and wards off failure? Two intertwined pressures trigger problems for many presidents. First, campuses are increasingly becoming ideological battlegrounds littered with vested, politically correct interests. Even though the conflicts have historical roots and have been occurring over the last three decades, public attention has intensified such skirmishes in recent years. That makes life in the college presidency much more contentious than in the past. Second, presidential deeds and rhetoric are more visible than they were even five years ago. There is no place to hide from the 24/7 news cycle and technological tools--i.e., alumni e-mail networks--that create the same curse and blessing for presidents as for other public leaders. Unfortunately, Nichol seems to have fallen into the trap of choosing battles that perhaps could have been avoided or handled less autocratically. Moreover, while his initial positions may have been laudatory from the perspective of free speech and expression, they do not compare as weighty choices with some of the momentous decisions that other presidents have had to make. The author contends that the important matter is not what did or didn't occur recently at William and Mary. What commands attention is a bigger-picture concern: the urgent need for presidents to shape a center that can hold for the university and its various constituencies. That time-honored goal is more critical in contemporary than in earlier times simply because it is much more difficult to accomplish.
Descriptors: College Presidents, Administrator Role, Higher Education, Educational Administration, Information Technology
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Higher Education
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Virginia