Win, Lose, or Draw: Hiring Administrators

May
2007
Michelle Pilati, Relations with Local Senates Committee Chair

After a long first day at Spring Plenary of basically nothing but Title 5 (T5) discussions, Friday's breakouts were, for me, a change of pace. Instead of the complexities of dealing with T5 (we are now on the most intimate of terms), I got to change gears and focus on things which were far simpler (ha!).

"Hiring and Educating New Administrators" was intended to be a discussion, with the presenters sharing information and ideas to start the conversation. Most informative were the results of a formal survey on administrator hiring and an informal survey on what faculty should and should not do to "educate" new administrators. Be sure to look for Rostrum articles on each of these. I'm going to take the liberty of focusing on where we are and what we might consider doing to improve our lot.

"Win, Lose, or Draw" describes what is currently happening as we look to fill the many vacant Chancellor/CEO positions out there. Few are the winners, who hire someone with whom they are happy on the first try. Amongst the losers are those who have someone installed that does not garner support from the campus community, but has the backing of the Board-or the colleges where the Board has opted to dismiss a President who has support from the campus community. "Draw" is what we see happening more and more often - disappointed by the candidates or unable to reach a consensus, a college or district opts to start the process all over. This is certainly better than a loss, provided the interim leadership is not creating problems. And what about those interims? Do you take the time to develop relationships with them, or do you just hope their time will be brief? How are such positions filled? A discussion of interims was another element of our breakout, but I digress.

In the instance where there is a "draw", will the pool be better the next time out? Only time will tell-but the odds are against us all. Chancellor Drummond reported early in the year that approximately 40 CEO positions were either vacant or would open up by June. Isn't that terrifying? Given the limited number of individuals out there looking to fill these jobs and interviewing across the state for the various currently open positions, we can hope that additional qualified applicants will emerge-perhaps vice presidents who want to move up or presidents who want a new challenge. And challenge it may well be.

How do we "grow" additional qualified administrators? Ask yourself this-would you want to be an administrator? How do you view your administrators? Perhaps you are lucky enough to be at a college where everything is harmonious-where administrators are not cursed and reviled, but respected and viewed as effective agents of positive change. But even then, would you want their job?

We do lose faculty to administrative positions all the time. While we hate to lose these faculty from our ranks, we have to applaud them for taking on what has to be a challenge. As an administrator, you may lose your ability to speak freely and may be compelled to compromise when you do not feel it is appropriate. As faculty, we can speak about and fight for what is right-without fear of reprisal (well, most of the time). I hate to get preachy, but that's our job-not to be preachy, but to fight for the best for our students. Does your Board have this in mind? Do your administrators? If you can say "yes", then you are in a special place.

What can we do to make it better? What can we do so that we might consider moving up in the food chain? We can start by trying to look at our administrators in a positive light-by forgiving them for their errors in the past or for the misdeeds of their predecessors. We can try and understand the pressures that they endure-responding to mandates from higher ups, dealing with ever-changing and contradictory priorities, trying to do what they believe is the right thing. Perhaps this is a tall order, or perhaps it is a simple change in mindset. If we have an adversarial relationship with our administrators, how can we ever expect to get it to change? If our faculty leaders do not view administrative leadership positions as attractive, where are we going to get those good administrators from?

Hopefully I've got you thinking just a little bit about what changes might benefit your college. And note that I do not say this from a perspective of a perfect world where everything is peachy-far from it. But as a psychologist, I believe in the power of our expectations and our outlook. If you expect the worst, you'll get it-we call that a self-fulfilling prophecy. We also know the power of first impressions and how they can color all future interactions-be cognizant of such things. And keep in mind that smiling really does make you happier. Perhaps the best approach to troubled times is to hope for and expect the best; it certainly can't hurt.

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