The committee assigned to select System President Ray Cross’ successor held a conference call Friday to go over the job description. Committee members agreed on language that calls for at least 10 years of experience in a “significant senior executive position” and an understanding of public higher education.
University leaders traditionally have come from academia, though some politically appointed governing boards for universities have chosen businessmen or politicians. The strategy has seen mixed success with faculty and staff often arguing that those leading institutions should have experience working at them and others saying that the job has evolved to demand more government and business acumen.
“There are constituencies that feel strongly that it should be only one way, and I think it’s wise that we don’t add emphasis to that,” UW Board of Regents President Drew Petersen said on the call. “Trying to be too precise will perhaps agitate multiple constituencies.”
The president should have some knowledge of higher education, but running an organization like the UW System requires a lot of skills that aren’t exclusive to higher education. Relationships with lawmakers, running a bureaucracy, facilities management, personnel management, budgeting, analysis and reporting, etc… all of these things are ubiquitous to any large organization. Plus, having someone come in from outside higher education offers the chance for a fresh perspective and different view. They should choose the best candidate they can get, but I’m glad that they are casting a wide net.