(Editor’s Note: Part One of this article ran yesterday and can be found here.)
5. Tolerance for controversial viewpoints
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education keeps a useful scorecard on campus “speech codes.” A responsible speech code is narrow in focus, penalizing only speech that is intended to injure or inflame identifiable individuals. Instead, most campuses rely on vague prohibitions of speech that “offends” or that “targets” minorities.
Many universities have identified particular spaces on campus as “free speech zones,” absurdly overlooking the fact that the First Amendment made the entire continent a free speech zone in 1791. More recently, university administrators have relied on campus honor codes, codes that typically enjoin mutual respect and other vaguely described “values,” to threaten outspoken conservatives with sanction, even expulsion. They never use these codes against powerful progressive groups. Finally, one prominent Texas public university has posted “disclaimers” on its official web site, distancing itself from a prominent conservative sociologist whose research reached politically incorrect conclusions.
The fifth benchmark: repeal overly broad speech codes, make the entire campus a “free speech zone,” renounce the use of the honor code to chill free expression, and treat all scholars with due respect, even conservatives.
6. Diversity of viewpoints represented by teachers
Most universities have task forces pursuing “gender equity” and administrators charged with promoting ethnic and racial diversity. However, the most flagrant lack of diversity on campuses today concerns viewpoint and philosophy. Religious believers, especially evangelicals, faithful Catholics, and Orthodox Jews, are significantly under-represented, and political conservatives (especially social and cultural conservatives) are virtually extinct. The first step toward solving this problem is to quantify it, by surveying tenure-track faculty and graduate students on party affiliation, pattern of primary election voting, religious affiliation, frequency of attendance in worship services, public identification as a conservative, libertarian, or moderate, and research focus on traditional topics (such as military history, political biography, religion and theology, and Great Books of the Western tradition).
The president must make intellectual and religious diversity among professors and graduate students a public priority, collecting the data needed to quantify the problem and track progress.
7. Effectively deployed and equitably paid work force
A recent study of the University of Texas at Austin revealed that the bottom quintile of faculty members there teach only 2% of students. At the same time, adjuncts and non-tenture-track instructors teach over 50% of undergraduates and 30% of graduate students. Teacher off the tenure track typically teach twice as many classes for half the pay and no long-term security.
An effective president will ensure that tenure-track professors earn their pay by teaching students, and that pay and benefits are proportional to performance, not political connections.
8. Effective use of physical resources and emerging technologies
The future of higher education will involve new ways of delivering content to students, through online lectures and video-conferenced seminars. The age of the ‘brick and mortar’ university is coming to an end. An effective president should make efficient use of existing facilities (with morning, evening, and weekend classes, and year-round instruction), replace large lecture courses with recorded video by academic stars, and promote the optimal mix of small discussion sections and online content delivery.
9. Transparency, accountability, and integrity
The Penn State and University of Illinois scandals should serve as an adequate warning about what happens when transparency is neglected and university administrators are invested with the blind trust of regents and alumni. It is a fundamental responsibility of all CEOs to cooperate freely and willingly with their own boards. A university president must practice active transparency and accountability, permitting trustees full access to internal records and communications and encouraging them to interview randomly selected students, instructors, and staff members.
10. International prestige
Ordinarily, academic prestige is the one and only thing that board’s care about. This narrow focus is unfortunate, but academic reputation is a legitimate concern, so long as the board relies upon valid measures from disinterested agents.
The US News and World Report is the most well-known ranking, but it has contributed to the swelling of college costs by putting more weight on the cost of the inputs than on the value of outputs. Forbes magazine offers a superior measure, based upon the post-graduation impact of college education on both earnings and personal satisfaction.
There are three important measures of research impacts: ASU’s Center for Measuring University Performance, the Academic Ranking of World Universities (Shanghai), and the QS World Ranking. The ASU measure has the flaw of measuring research in terms of its cost rather than its impact. Shanghai’s Academic Ranking looks at both numbers of articles written and the number of citations given those articles by others, as well as academic prizes won by faculty members. The QS World Ranking also considers reputation surveys of both academic experts and employers.
A well-rated president should maintain and improve the university’s rankings.
The report card can be used prospectively as well as retrospectively. (For an example of the latter, see a recent post of mine.) When hiring a new president, a board can use something like this report card as its marching orders. When selecting a new president, boards should avoid the trap of expensive national searches for the supposedly best possible candidate. First of all, such searches are likely to turn up candidates with a great deal of administrative experience, which means, under present conditions, the development of skills at obtaining and spending lots of money and at keeping the various stakeholders (administrators, faculty, student activists) happy. This is exactly the opposite of what is needed. A true leader should be a reformer, and a reformer will rapidly accumulate vocal opposition. Boards should look beyond the list of “usual suspects,” focusing instead on eminent scholars or scientists at their university, or to successful entrepreneurs or leaders in emerging industries. I would consider the holding of any academic post above department chairman to be a disqualification, not a prerequisite.
In addition, if a board hires a president after an expensive public search, the board immediately loses its leverage. Board members will have invested so much of their own reputation and prestige in the search that they will be unable to threaten to fire the new president should he or she fail to measure up. It is much better to select an internal candidate quickly and quietly and then hold the new president to high standards. We know what needs to be done: all that has been missing is the will to do it.