Sunday, April 08, 2007

Chancellor's search - interesting development

I have been waiting for the papers to publish something on the Chancellor's search, so I can have a little fun with it. I hope they pick someone good.

My comment about this is remember back just over a year ago when they were filling the President's job? They didn't tell us who was interviewed because it was top secret? The search committee went into a smoke filled room and emerged with Glenn Poshard's name? Isn't it interesting to see how differently this search is going down?

They are telling us the finalists, it looks like the finalists will actually be shown the campus and everything in this search.

I think Poshard was a great choice, but clearly the process of how he was chosen looks really dirty. Maybe in Illinois we just accept this kind of jury rigging and move on? Poshard's selection seemed fishy 14 months ago and it seems worse now that they are doing this search right.

Of course, your comments are welcome.


gadfly said...

Its a little early to say the university is doing "things right." They're doing things openly, but I'm not convinced the process itself is "right" (such as the stupid wasting of funds for a search firm).

Peter in Carbondale said...

Since every university uses search firms to find top level administrators, doesn't it feel like you don't understand the process and that SIU is doing the right thing?

When you are out of the loop, you never know if other people are doing the right thing. When talking about SIU's hiring practices, we know it is likely things are screwed up. In successful organizations, it is easy to hire the right person. SIU needs a turn around expert and that is harder.

I hope they get lucky.

gadfly said...

No, I think its silly for any university to pay for a search firm. It might make sense to pay a firm to do the background search, but its not as if these folks are hard to find or that university personnel are not qualified to make this choice.

With respect to SIU needing a "turn around expert," its not clear to me why you think they haven't already tried that. Afterall, the last two chancellors and provosts (to my knowledge) were identified by search firms. Ditto the last two presidents. Yet, it has failed to turn anything around. I'd say that this is proof positive that "experts" and "search firms" aren't the solution to any problems. Indeed, they may exacerbate the problems by identifying "up and comers" -- administrators that want to establish their "plan" and then leave before anything is accomplished. If that isn't the history of SIU over the last twenty years, than I don't know what is.

Peter in Carbondale said...

I think we can now agree that you know nothing about doing a search for any position and leave it at that.

SIU has been under the impression that everything was fine in the past. Wendler's 5 years have really hurt. Now everyone knows there is really a problem, Poshard is firing people for goodness sake (including Wendler). Only when you admit you are in real trouble do you start doing the things you need to do, that is the American way.

Gadfly, you know nothing about hiring or people. Kind of makes you a standard Sheila supporter.

Anonymous said...

Wendler's last five years were better than any of the chancellor's from the previous twenty years.

As the state continues to cut funds to higher education; the University is finally starting to raise money for its endowment on its own; there are improvements being made to infrastructure and building on campus - things that have been neglected for years; faculty salaries are up substantially, tuition has been raised - which, while not desirable, it was certainly long overdue; external research dollars being brought into the University are up.

What did Wendler do regarding the direction of the University that 'really hurt?'

Anonymous said...

Peter, you hit it on the head when you said that "SIU has been under the impression that everything was fine in the past.: They had been finding positive spin in all their problems for quite some time. Just look at enrollment. Every semester that numbers were down, some administrators found something positive. After Wendler left, the university opened up and admitted that enrollment was a problem. Now something is being done to get things right. I think with the right person in charge, SIU will continue to identify its problems, come up with solutions and get things done.

Fraydog said...

I think this is a pretty weak field. I'm waiting to see what the candidates say and how their visits go, but my expectations are low.

Anonymous said...

The enrollment issue is a red herring. The University has lost less than one half of one percent of its students over the last 3 years. Those losses are more than covered (much more!) by tuition increases.

It was long overdue that the University raise tuition, and a drop off in enrollment was a likely outcome that was foreseen (or should have been, at least).

The University has also raised its ACT admittance requirements in the recent past. They have also started actually charged an application fee to apply to SIU. Too many students went to SIU because the application was free and it was the cheapest school in the state.

The University is in the midst of trying to change its image. If something costs more money to get, people tend to put greater value on that item. Education is no different. We need students who are serious about their education, and raising application fees and tuition is part of that process.

Peter in Carbondale said...

Oh goodness -

Wendler didn't have a clue about what was really going on. I like the quote, "Wendler is rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic."

He focused on Southern at 150 and then Saluki Way, both are impossible. He built huge brick signs at campus entry points and didn't fix classrooms. He had no idea how to do marketing or PR, there are no brochures in high schools, he raised tuition and just couldn't understand why everyone didn't think he was a decider. While these programs were being created, SIU was loosing students day by day.

Wendler carried out a negative PR campaign against the faculty. The faculty is what the university is selling.

Look at the people Poshard has fired in the last few months. You can't argue that those people didn't deserve to be fired under Wendler can you?

Every other university in Illinois has increased their number of students in the last 5 years, except SIU. Do you think that is because of random luck?

You can thank Poshard for the latest facility contract. Before that, we really couldn't say the money was going in the right direction could we?

I can't believe anyone would call Wendler's time here a success. It is true, he might be better then everyone in the last 20 years, but he was clueless and a failure never the less. In the end, he tried to change SIU in a dramatic way and screwed up. He might have been a better chancellor, but his results were worse then most.

Hopefully, Wendler will be the last Chancellor that thinks he can just turn SIU on a dime and make it a top 75 research university. It has taken 30+ years to get as screwed up as it is now and it might well take 30 years to get SIU back to where it needs to be.

I suggest pushing the panic button, SIU is near the edge.

Peter in Carbondale said...

Fraydog - there are lots of great people out there. This reminds me of watching Kentucky hire their Basketball coach recently, SIU is likely better off with an up and comer, then a proven commodity.

I agree with the commenter just under Fraydog. As I have written here in the past, SIU can't just raise tuition and not do the PR and marketing and do well. When you are cheap and good, you can just get a good result without marketing. Your price and results are your marketing. Now that the price is up, SIU needs to work harder.

It would be really great is SIU would cut down on grade inflation and produce better students as part of the student improvement project. SIU has taken bad ACT score students for its whole history and had good results with the ones that graduate. Hopefully, they can get back to that.

Anonymous said...

You don't mention a single thing at which he failed.

Personally, I think he failed to keep his job because he was very poor at interpersonal relationships and didn't value the input of others. He was aloof and domineering and that cost him his job.

I don't know how much time you spend on campus, but you are wrong about classrooms. They are certainly not in good shape, but they are better than when Wendler arrived. The University added internet access to almost all classrooms, made needed repairs in many rooms. Where it used to be that ceiling tiles falling on people and leaks being a constant problem, they have at least gotten better.

So many of the buildings at SIU are so old and years of neglect have taken their toll, that fixing them up isn't worth the money. New buildings must be constructed to replace the broken down eyesores on campus.

The other schools may have raised their enrollment, but since SIU has raised tuition, raised standards, and charged people to apply, it is logical that enrollment would go down. Did any of those other Universities make such drastic changes to improve - no they did not.

The faculty that Wendler opposed were those who have been hear 20+ years and are still Associates. This is the bulk of the Faculty Association's members and its time they retired. They've been sitting on their butts and they want to be rewarded for it.

Wendler completely destroyed the Association in the previous contract bargaining back in 2000-2001, and it was for the best. The Association stands in the way of progress of this institution, not making it better. Those faculty would rather run the University themselves than do their teaching and research.

There's a lot of new construction happening. People are being paid more money for their work, standards for admitting students have been raised, the University is becoming less reliant on state legislators for their budget every year, and the quality of graduate education in particular is improving.

Maybe you could point out all the bad things that have happened at SIU since 2000 that make it worse today than it was then? Who are the people Poshard fired, and why were they fired?

Peter in Carbondale said...

Boy, lots of stuff that is hard to argue with here. Nice work.

As a leader, one of the things you have to do is get people signed up on your program. We know that people with huge budgets, and with huge staffs, never fail at everything. They get to push their agenda and do something good. We can say the same about the other fools that have had that job.

The first problem Wendler had was over reaching on Southern at 150. Everyone knew that some things could be improved, but the program was out of reach. His focus on football was a mistake.

Wendler, Lenzi and Davis are my favorite firings. That he missed Bryson is a statement about politics in Illinois, I assume.

Wendler didn't win in the 2000 labor contact talks, he lost the university momentum. The Association seems to be doing fine, same leaders and same problems for SIU. If nothing changes, except less work gets gone, that is a hollow victory indeed.

If you want to improve SIU, you have to start at the chairmen level. Why are so many left alone that do no or little work?

In summary, Wendler failed at ever large plan he proposed. Southern at 150 is a complete bust. Saluki Way is a complete bust. Every Dean has turned over, which might be good. Management of the faculty and staff is no better and for most of his time at SIU was worse. Hiring at SIU is something I'm going to write about soon, is no better and in many ways worse then it was. So many good things happened in his years in power, but all the major things, that we judge leaders on, were failures.

I do hope that your general analysis that SIU has hit bottom and is on the way up is correct. Your talking points pointing to improvement are good stuff. I have my fingers crossed.