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If I were the university president…

July 3, 2008, 5:02 pm

UPDATE Monday, July 7: This blog post was picked up by the student newspaper at the University of Toledo. I welcome all the readers who might be visiting CO9s from that newspaper article. Unfortunately, despite my requests and the reporter’s assurance to the contrary, the newspaper article contains the name of my employer and the rank which I hold at my college and identifies me not as the blogger at Casting Out Nines but as a professor at my college. I want to reiterate: Casting Out Nines is a private blog which is in no way affiliated with my employer. I do not speak for my employer on anything here, and my opinions are my own. The fact that my rank and affiliation were “outed” at the Toledo article was the fault of the editors there and was against my wishes. I have submitted an email of protest to the reporter and the paper about this in which I ask for my rank and affiliation to be removed from the online version of the article, and from the print version if possible.

…and I had a Dean working under me that was highly unpopular and received a no-confidence vote from the faculty, I’d find that situation difficult to deal with. But I don’t think I’d handle it like they did at the University of Toledo:

In an April 27 e-mail, for instance, President Lloyd Jacobs indicated that he would be open to getting rid of the embattled dean if he didn’t think that doing so would validate faculty critics.

“For several days I thought the best thing to do was to throw [Lee] under the bus and get on with our agenda,” Jacobs wrote to Rosemary Haggett, the university’s provost. “Maybe thats [sic] still the best thing – input please …

“However, we probably can’t do that because we can’t reward the bad behavior that the [Arts and Sciences] folk have displayed, I think.”

Sounds like Pres. Jacobs not only needs to work on his people skills, but he and the Provost also forgot the First Law of Email, which states that whatever you put into an email will become public information at the worst possible moment.  Administrators everywhere: whatever it is you really want to say about somebody in an email, don’t.

The same lesson about people skills could be learned by the UT faculty who put up the Arts & Sciences Council blog. I’ve never seen a semi-official outlet of a public university take such an publicly antagonistic stance towards administration, and it’s shockingly unprofessional. Faculty may have a legitimate bone to pick with administrators — all faculty do, and it’s just a question of how frequently — but putting up a blog to publicly vilify your president can’t be the best possible way to deal with it.

Makes me glad I don’t work there.

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