Sunday, November 26, 2006

SIU's Golden Age and trying to get it back.


If we talk about SIU's Golden Age, I think we can all agree it was in the years of 1950 (or so) to 1970. You will notice, that I don't really know when it started, but I do know the date it ended. The Golden Age ended with Delyte Morris left the university and the Old Main building was burned down.

When I start thinking about managing a fast growing organization over 20 years, I start to think about the people. In those 20 years you can hire great people or lay a ground work of bad management, either way the legacy of those hirings will continue for many years. The Morris years were good years to be hiring a large faculty, the professors still remembered the hard years of WWII and the Great Depression. The USA was assuming the mantel as a Superpower, expectations were that if you worked a whole lot harder, you might make a great life for yourself.

If you were to start thinking about the management difficulties of turning SIU around today, instead of trying 8 or 9 years ago, there is no one left from the Golden Age on the entire campus. When Jo Ann Argersinger was Chancellor the back bone of the senior professors were hired in the Morris years, they still had an idea of what the university was like when the buildings were new and the university was on the way up. Today, all the professors from the Morris years are retired.

One interesting idea from the Golden Age idea is what maybe the only person who remembers them on campus is Glen Poshard. He was here then and he seems to understand the power of events and symbolism that were so important to Morris. It could be that he wants to return SIU to a new Golden Age, he seems to be putting the trappings of the Morris years back together.

When big companies get into a situation like SIU is in today (poor performance, bad corporate culture, poor employee morale) they execute a massive reset in the form of a layoff. That really gets the attention of the employees and often does a reset in values that is needed for the organization to survive.

I wonder if Glen Poshard is brave enough and has enough power to make a new golden age. I wonder if he did have the power if he would use it for good and not evil. If he did start making changes, I wonder if the BOT (and their owners in Chicago and Springfield) would allow him to do it.

Your comments are welcome.

1 comment:

sthorne said...

So SEMO has been coasting for 30 years on what Delyte Morris built? That would explain why admissions slowly crept up for several years after Morris was forced out, plateaued and sank back to the level it is now. Once an organization loses the visionary that built it, it can run for awhile on the infrastructure left behind.

I had some point I was trying to make but it's escaping me now.