Herewith his unsparing summary of what is wrong.
Parents and alumni would love to learn about the pressures driving up tuition, or how the campus deals with alcohol abuse and sexual assaults, or the pluses and minuses of speech codes, or the struggles professors have with helicopter parents. There is no shortage of issues.And the serial administrator brought in from outside is likely to get it wrong.
Faculty members have unprecedented concerns these days: threats to academic freedom, political interference from trustees and elected officials, administrative bloat, declining department budgets, growing red tape, the decline of the tenure track, the pressure to publish and get grants, the intrusion of corporate business practices, declining academic rigor, and on and on.
Professors know (or at least hope) that their administrative leadership has thought deeply about these issues, but if all they hear are homilies and syrupy happy talk, they’re going to assume that their campus leaders are either scoundrels or mindless oafs. Or both.
I am alarmed at the polarization between faculty and administrators on so many campuses. The distrust and rancor and breakdown of collegiality is like nothing I’ve seen in 40 years. True, there are faculty members who will always believe their — fill in the blank: chair, dean, provost, president — is a jackbooted Nazi thug, but most faculty can be persuaded otherwise if administrators are willing to communicate honestly and intelligently with them.
[Faculty members] know the problems are tough and often intractable. What they want is leaders who are insightful, reflective, and trustworthy — who understand life in the trenches and share their values.And staying true to yourself and recognizing when things go wrong are desirable skills.
What they don’t want is simplistic, glad-handing opportunists who spout jargon, platitudes, and evasions. Unfortunately, in this academic climate, that’s going to be the default assumption about campus leaders unless they demonstrate otherwise.
You want your readers to have a sense of who you are as a person, what you feel deeply about, why you care about them and your campus. If you can pull that off, then your readers will like you and cut you some slack when you make mistakes and decisions that disappoint them, as you most certainly will. Of course, if most of your decisions disappoint them, then perhaps you should explore other career options.Tempting as it might be to say "we'll have a better university when we have better faculty or students or teams."