Who’s Running Our Colleges and Universities?

That’s the title of my new book, which you can find here:  amazon.com/author/williamsphilip

What inspired me to write it?

During my fifteen years as a university administrator–the last eleven as a campus president (four years at the University of Montevallo and seven years at McNeese State)–I confess to becoming irritated whenever someone addressed me as though I were a king or a dictator. I feel the same sense of frustration during national elections, when candidates promise to do this or that, as if our Constitution had been drafted to include only one branch of government.

If I had the time, when I was addressed that way, I would patiently explain that universities are complex organizations filled with highly educated employees, including faculty, support staff, and administrators. Although it might seem to an outsider that the president (or chancellor) was in charge of everything, most of the work was so specialized that only a few individuals were competent enough to handle it.

For example, the administrator whose title might be something along the lines of Chief Technology Officer (CTO) might supervise a staff of programmers, hardware technicians, and internet experts whose work could never be performed by the president or chancellor. Imagine what would happen if the president ordered the CTO to establish a Wi-Fi system for a new residence hall in two weeks and the CTO responded “It can’t be done that quickly!” Would most campus presidents know enough about Wi-Fi installation to contradict the CTO? Would you?

Or suppose it’s a student who comes to the president to complain about the difficulty of a midterm exam administered by a newly hired microbiology professor. Having somehow missed that class during my own undergraduate education–I was a history major–how would I know whether the student just needed to work harder or whether the professor was indeed setting unrealistic expectations?

Even the work of my executive assistant–who knew which forms had to be used and how to coordinate major university events and what offices on campus could be counted on to help in times of crisis–was so specialized that I would have needed years to master it.

And so I posed the question, Who’s Running Our Colleges and Universities?, and wrote the book, hoping to disabuse readers from the notion that presidents and chancellors are really calling all the shots.