Saturday, June 1, 2013

Window Dressing, Part II.

(a work in progress...)

My friend and fellow alum, Michael McNabb, has already posted on the upcoming Kabuki theater performance that is the Board of Regents meeting where pro forma comments by the public have been invited on a budget that was not available until after the deadline for people to request to speak to it.

I am sympathetic to members of the Board because their job expectations seem to be rapidly changing, if the words and actions of the state legislature are to be taken at face value, e.g. 

Pelowski took special delight in blasting the Board of Regents and the athletic department in his remarks. 
He compared the regents to “the House of Lords — they have nice titles, a nice place to meet and don’t do anything ...’’

We are entering a time in higher education where change will be rapid and business as usual will not suffice. Decisions about things like MOOCs will have to be made. These involve resource allocation as well as the inevitability of accepting MOOC courses for credit. 

A particularly egregious example of foot-dragging and refusal to face facts occurred right before Mr. McNabb's post. It made me think of how much of University of Minnesota administration really is devoted to window dressing. Or bottom covering in the Markingson case.

Some background:

Jul 6, 2010

The Medical School should have a Dean whose sole responsibility is the optimal function of the Medical School

In Favor / 327 / 92.4%

Opposed / 18 / 5.1%

Abstain / 9 / 2.5%

 From President Kaler's recent email:

Thu, May 30, 2013 at 2:00 AM 

I am pleased to provide you with an update on the University's search for a new dean of the Medical School and vice president for health sciences.

Based on the input we received through these listening sessions and the external review, I have decided to change the position title to Dean of the Medical School and Vice President for Health Sciences.
[There, that fixes the problem.] 

The new title of dean and vice president is to clarify that the primary responsibility of this position is leadership of the Medical School. 

As I have said since my inauguration, I know of no great university without a great medical school. We have many strengths and much to be proud of in the Medical School.  
[Strange thing for an engineer to say... Caltech, MIT, Carnegie Mellon, Purdue, etc., etc.] 

What I have heard from faculty, staff, and students is that what is necessary to take us to the next level is vision, a strong voice, and a dedicated leader.
[What does this word dedicated mean? Reminds me of Humpty-Dumpty's: "When I use a word, it means exactly what I say it means..."] 

The role of vice president is also critical to the University and to Minnesota. Interprofessional education has never been more important to students and the health care community. Interdisciplinary research is critical to funding and to finding the next cures and treatments. The vice president will continue to lead these efforts, convene our health science colleges and schools, oversee our clinical activities, develop strong relationships with the health care community, and coordinate our health care strategy.
[All while having as his or her PRIMARY responsibility being the dean of the medical school? To laugh.] 

This is an important and complex job. In addition to leadership of the Medical School and coordination of the health sciences, this dean and vice president will also be a senior leader of the University, a community leader, a spokesperson for the health sciences, and the primary leader of our relationship with Fairview, including chairing the board of the new integrated structure. In order to attract top talent to this position, it needs to be a combined position. 
[Top talent?  Where have we heard that phrase before?]

See a previous post on the Periodic Table: Top Talent

State Representative Ryan Winkler also recently mentioned "top" leaders on Twitter:

Gordon Gee is the president of tOSU where he knocks down the princely sum of $2,140,000 [sic]. I suppose this is only right since he has been a university president since in utero...

But he is also an idiot.  So much for top talent.

Recent Gee-isms:

"The fathers are holy on Sunday, and they're holy hell on the rest of the week. You just can't trust those damn Catholics on a Thursday or a Friday, and so, literally, I can say that."

"Someone was saying to me, 'Well, you know, Bret Bielema leaving ... that was a blessing for Wisconsin and they knew it,' " Gee said, according to the full tape published by " 'Because he was under tremendous pressure. They didn't like him. (Wisconsin AD) Barry Alvarez thought he was a thug. And he left just ahead of the sheriff.' "

The top goal of Big Ten presidents is to "make certain that we have institutions of like-minded academic integrity," Gee said. "So you won't see us adding Louisville," a member of the Big East conference that is also joining the ACC.

Gee said, "You tell the SEC when they can learn to read and write, then they can figure out what we're doing. I've been down there. I was the chairman of the Southeastern Conference for two years. I'll tell you something. It's shameful. It really is."

So much for top talent.

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