Letter to the editor: Presidential qualities

Chris Schilling

Several faculty, students, staff, alumni and parents had a brainstorming session on the [email protected] list serve. We arrived at the following list of desirable characteristics for ISU’s next president. The list was presented at the open forum on selection criteria for ISU’s next president. 1. A clearly defined philosophy that recognizes and appreciates the necessity for a balanced, equitable emphasis on (and a balanced, equitable reward system) for teaching, research and outreach. 2. A demonstrated track record of dealing sensitively and fairly with employees. 3. Extraordinary communication skills; the ability to deal effectively and evenly with all constituencies – student, staff, faculty, regents, public, legislature, alumni, business community and so on. 4. A clear position on the roles and obligations of a land-grant institution, as differentiated from other institutions of higher education. 5. A clear commitment to shared governance and a record to back it up. A demonstrated respect for the centrality of the faculty in setting university policy in the core areas of teaching, research, extension and general personnel policies toward faculty. A strong commitment to open and democratic decision making. 6. A specific policy on the financial operation of the institution (relative support of the various funding sources, fund-raising practices and expenditure priorities). ‘ 7. A clearly defined policy/philosophy as to the president’s accountability to internal and external constituencies, e.g., reporting on policy changes, personnel management actions, fiscal affairs, external activities, etc. 8. A commitment to protect disinterested inquiry and academic freedom. Willingness to listen to cases where academic freedom has been destroyed and where ethics have not prevailed, especially where the faculty tried to do what is right. Willingness to stand behind faculty to protect academic freedom and academic honesty. 9. A strong sense of ethics, honesty and integrity. Willingness to accept and embrace the assertion that acceptance of one’s own mistakes is paramount to good leadership. 10. Willingness to discuss serious cases of donor- or sponsor-originated malfeasance, such as corporation-altered ISU research-reports. Willingness to discuss a corporation’s failure to pay its financial obligations due under research contracts to Iowa State. 11. Willingness to stand before an open session of the Government of the Student Body and/or the Faculty Senate on a regular basis. Willingness to stand before a Q&A forum open to the public. 12. A clear and strong commitment to the institution of tenure as the best protection of academic freedom. A clear and strong position in favor of using temporary, non-tenure stream faculty only to meet teaching needs that are truly temporary; e.g., temporary faculty absences or vacancies and unexpected surges in interest in particular courses. 13. Willingness to make all financial transfers from the ISU Foundation to the President or the President’s Office publicly available. 14. Willingness to encourage constructive criticism and dissenting viewpoints throughout the faculty, staff and student body. A commitment to diversity of not only background and experience but to diversity of thought and belief. A commitment to the idea that free speech is the cornerstone not only of American thought but also of higher learning and academic freedom. Excerpted from statements by students, faculty, staff, alumni, and parents on [email protected]. Chris Schilling

Associate Professor

Materials science and engineering