Presidents

North Idaho College trustees fire president without cause

One trustee believes board members acted in retaliation against the president for supporting an effort to recall the chairman.

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Mandating vaccines runs counter to good public policy and medical ethics (opinion)

Ever since the Nuremberg Code of 1947 that formed the ethical basis of all research and treatments today, the very first principle articulated, accepted and applied is the principle of voluntary participation.

During the initial stages of the ongoing pandemic, it was reasonable to accept greater treatment risks as we fought the virus and sought support from all corners to protect the most vulnerable. And we have done that quite well, both individually and as a society demonstrating a commitment to seeking the common good.

As we learn more about COVID-19, we must remember that we have never been able to create an effective vaccine against any coronavirus -- ever. The scientific communities from around the globe marshaled their efforts and, thankfully, produced a vaccination that continues to show it is safe and effective meeting an immediate need. I looked at a significant amount of data, discussed the common good with many and then decided personally that the risk was manageable for my medical condition -- so I was willingly vaccinated.

But my personal acceptance of the vaccination does not mean the risk-reward ratio is the same for everyone, and it does not suggest that arriving at a different selection of prevention or treatment is any less contributory to the common good.

Now that the initial surge has passed, we must engage in a vibrant national conversation on other tools to fight the virus, as well, such as the impact of natural immunity.

Vaccines are not the only solution for current and future phases of COVID-19, and it is poor public policy and questionable medical ethics to mandate them for everyone.

The American military tribunal at Nuremberg that began in 1946 -- a trial intended to hold accountable the perpetrators of forced medical experiments on human subjects against their will -- reminds us that requiring everyone to take this vaccination and the soon-to-be booster shots without the necessary evidence of the long-term effects is imprudent. This should be voluntary.

Few of us would ask a major corporation or our political leadership what should be done for high blood pressure, headaches or broken bones, because neither type of entity has the necessary competence in the health sciences. They display pure hubris in suggesting otherwise.

It’s the same with our nation’s colleges and universities. They, likewise, have no competency to wedge their institutions between health-care providers and their patients.

As a matter of historical fact, our colleges and universities have been the guardians of voluntary participation, or informed consent, for all research with an institutional review board process that is present on nearly every campus in America. Yet today we see higher education leadership across the country abandoning the ethical principles that guide us without sufficient evidence addressing the long-term medical and physical effects for what they are demanding of their respective communities.

We must step back from the ledge and adjust and expand our understanding of the risks involved in the many and various treatment options for a virus that has not been eradicated. We must return to modeling the ethical principles America established in 1947 for the world as the result of untold human suffering of the past -- and, thus, prevent it in the future.

Now is the time for bold leadership to ask the critical questions that further prevention and treatment recommendations. How do we in higher education integrate the interdisciplinary knowledge of our business, education, medical and public health scholars with our 20 months of experiential knowledge to create for an exhaustive list of intervention strategies that are easily understood and implemented to manage and mitigate a pandemic? What are the key questions that form a framework for our communities to ask themselves in making a judgment about accepting a vaccination? What are the research and analysis contributions we can make to the national dialogue to create a more informed citizenry? Last, do we need to create new collaborations to develop new tools that might accelerate the understanding of the long-term effects of the vaccine on an individual?

Higher education is a vital part of the solution to our global pandemic. We hold a special place in society as a trusted resource that must be leveraged to align our public policy with the common good -- thus meeting the long-term needs of our nation. Let’s lead, rather than follow, in making vital contributions in this historic moment doing what we do best: model critical thinking.

Tim Collins is president of Walsh University.

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Dillard University President Plans to Leave Next Year

Dillard University President Walter Kimbrough will leave his role in May 2022, the university announced on Monday.

Kimbrough, 54, will have led the historically Black institution in New Orleans for 10 years by the time of his departure. He previously served as president of Philander Smith College in Arkansas, where he started his first presidency at age 37.

"Walter is an innovative leader who has made an indelible impact on Dillard University," Michael D. Jones, a Dillard alumnus and chairman of the Board of Trustees, said in the announcement.

Kimbrough is credited with getting an $160 million federal loan to the university forgiven in 2018 along with other HBCU leaders at institutions affected by Hurricane Katrina who fought for debt relief. The university's endowment grew by more than 115 percent and reached $100 million during his tenure, according to the announcement.

"Dillard University and New Orleans have been awesome for our family, and we are thankful for the love and support," Kimbrough said in a separate message to the campus. "But it is time for a new challenge where my gifts and graces match the needs of an institution at this point in their history, and Dillard is ready for someone new to do likewise."

The university's announcement said the board of trustees plans to immediately begin a search for a new president.

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South Carolina State Fires President

The Board of Trustees at South Carolina State University, a historically Black land-grant university, has voted to oust the institution’s president, James Clark.

Clark was fired Tuesday in a 10-to-3 vote for “cause,” but the board declined to elaborate on why Clark was dismissed, The State reported.

“The board thanks President Clark for his service to our university over the last five years of his term and wishes him much success in his future endeavors,” Rodney Jenkins, chair of the Board of Trustees, said during the virtual meeting.

The dismissal came after an 18-to-2 vote of no confidence in Clark's presidency by the Faculty Senate in March.

The university has faced recurrent enrollment declines and budget deficits over the last decade, which Clark was unable to reverse, faculty members and alumni told The State. Clark was hired as president in 2016, a year after the state Legislature and then-governor Nikki Haley fired the entire board because of the university’s ongoing financial struggles.

David Staten, president of the Faculty Senate, told the publication he was “pleased that the university decided to go in a new direction.”

Alexander Conyers, the university’s vice president of strategic alliances and initiatives, was appointed acting president in a unanimous vote by the board.

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Lafayette College hires College Advising Corps founder and CEO

Lafayette College steps out of the box by choosing College Advising Corps leader as its next president. The hire comes as the private college seeks to ramp up financial aid and grow its student body.

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Board chair plans two-year interim presidency at Dickinson College

Dickinson College will turn to its board chair, a high-profile federal judge, as a two-year interim because its president is resigning to return to American University of Nigeria, where she was previously president.

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Seven advantages that executive coaches can provide college presidents (opinion)

Although executive coaching is common in the corporate sector, higher ed has been slow to understand why an experienced, outside perspective is so valuable, write Mary Sue Coleman and Lisa M. Rudgers.

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Brandeis University president takes bitter contract negotiations public

University president Ron Liebowitz publicly takes Brandeis board's offer to task as negotiations hit a standstill, saying it would undercut his standing with donors.

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More presidents may be leaving, but will their colleges be ready for it? (opinion)

Dozens of college presidents have announced they’ll leave their roles by the end of the academic year, a trend driven by the increasing age of college presidents and exacerbated by the unrelenting demands that the pandemic has placed on them. While fall is often the traditional time for such decisions to be made public, we may see another wave of presidential departures announced this spring. With so many institutions on the cusp of presidential transitions, we are reminded of the sheer importance of succession planning.

Long recognized by corporations and the military as the key to sustainable and successful leadership transitions, succession planning is seen by many people in higher education as running counter to the ideals of shared governance. In addition, such planning may currently seem like a luxury that institutions can’t afford when the pandemic has hastened the calendar and choked resources.

Yet boards can -- and should -- try to plan accordingly by regularly having open and honest conversations around a sitting president’s goals and time horizon. They can create a foundation for success that offers professional development opportunities throughout a presidency. And they can invest in a search process when the inevitable transition in leadership arrives.

Start discussions early and have them often. Strategic and reflective boards and board leaders are regularly engaged throughout a president’s term of leadership, from the first year to the last. Every college or university president should be asked during each year of service where they lie in the arc of their presidency. How much time do they see left in their tenure? What do they still wish to accomplish? What continues to satisfy and motivate them?

Ideally, boards will be involved in generative discussions well before public announcements of presidential departures are made. And although COVID-19 may have abbreviated the timeline for some presidential transitions, they still have time to have these conversations.

One long-term president of a Northeast private institution with which we recently worked began discussing with the board his plans to retire 18 months before his projected departure, giving trustees plenty of time to prepare for the launch of a thoughtful and intentional search for his successor. About a month prior to the public announcement, we facilitated a rich, four-hour conversation with the board to help maximize the outgoing president’s final contributions. What could he do that a newcomer could not? What social capital did he have to spend, and where should he invest it? We were also able to use that time to help the board members begin to wrestle with what the institution needed next and what kind of leader they hoped to recruit.

Invest in a search process that thoughtfully engages the board and the campus community. Despite being sophisticated and powerful people, board members can quickly find themselves overwhelmed by a presidential transition and the search for a new leader. They often lack familiarity with the process, and often little or no institutional memory remains from the last presidential search.

As a result, we often see boards get started late, without enough conversation, and then feel they need to rush the search process. Even though the pandemic has complicated the exit for many institutional leaders, it is vital that boards take the time to have a thoughtful, inclusive presearch assessment period and then stay involved as the process unfolds. Board engagement in the various phases of the search, as well as the presidential transition and onboarding, provides stability during the trying times each campus now faces.

We hear regularly that the tyranny of the calendar and the pressure to produce a successful candidate causes shortcuts in governance that can damage relationships. But the push to move quickly unnecessarily complicates the traditional search process. In too many instances, the board is left to weigh in after a presearch assessment visit with campus constituents has already painted a picture. While that community voice is vitally important to shared governance and to substantively informing the process, the board shouldn’t be the last in the boat. By creating a more deliberative process, the opportunity arises for not only the board to be more invested in the search but also greater numbers of other internal and external stakeholders -- including faculty, staff, students, alumni and local community members.

Two years ago at a liberal arts college, we had an opportunity to be present the day after the longtime president had confidentially shared plans to leave the presidency several weeks ahead of the public announcement. Our presence allowed us to provide an overview of the presidential search to the entire Board of Trustees, as well as to conduct an initial assessment of the board’s collective sense of the leadership agenda and identify the desired qualities of the next president. It also prepared us well to probe for areas of congruence and tension with other stakeholders as the presearch assessment moved beyond the board. Having more time before launching the search also enabled us to reach out to some of the institution’s most important supporters and donors.

We are learning through the pandemic that much can be accomplished virtually. Today, more than ever, avenues exist for the board to be actively engaged in the search process from start to finish. Working through the search committee, the board should be appropriately involved from the initial conversations that help to frame the criteria by which candidates will be recruited to taking part in conversations with the final candidates.

Remember that the search itself is only 30 percent of the job. Too often, a presidential search is seen as transactional: there’s a vacancy, there’s a search and the position is filled. However, boards must think beyond the search and the appointment of a new president to the transition and onboarding of the new leader.

We have found in working with several partner institutions the fruitfulness of sustained board engagement in the transition process, during which time the board and new president are able to begin to build a trusting relationship. Board members can reflect deeply on the current challenges the institution faces while also working with the new president to lay the groundwork for expectations and goals. The new leader can then walk into their new role with a clearer understanding of their priorities for their earliest days, their first year and the following few years. One recently placed president regarded the compiled advice from trustees we produced through a workshop as an “amazing gift.” It provided not only good counsel but also critical cues about the institution’s organizational culture.

In addition, one of the most beneficial resources a board can offer a new president is an executive coach to walk alongside them in their first year of service. Providing this additional support system is an invaluable investment in institutional vitality and well-being as much as it is an investment in the leader. That can be especially true in instances when a person outside higher education or someone who came up through a less traditional pathway is hired. When the new president represents some new personal dimension of diversity in the life of the leadership of the institution, such as a first president of color or a first lay president at a religious institution, the need to support such new leaders is particularly acute, but an executive coach can be valuable for all new presidents. One new president recently remarked on the exceptional value of having a trusted, knowledgeable coach during the phase of “drinking from the fire hose” while settling in and getting established in a new institutional home.

The realities of today make college and university leadership more challenging, more vexing and more uncertain than perhaps ever before. In this COVID-19 era, when institutions may be only one leader away from shutting their doors forever, boards can no longer afford to create or compound their institutional leadership problems through poor succession planning. Honest and candid conversations, paired with a thoughtful and intentional search process and onboarding plan, are needed to find and nurture strong leaders and position them and their institutions for success in the future.

L. Jay Lemons is president and senior consultant of Academic Search, which has offered executive search services to higher education institutions, associations and related organizations for more than four decades.

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Fayetteville State faculty criticize selection of chancellor who's backed school choice and Silent Sam agreement

Former UNC system board member worked for DeVos-aligned school choice group and backed controversial Silent Sam agreement. Now faculty and alumni are fighting his appointment as chancellor of Fayetteville State University.

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