College Boards Turn To Business-Style Approaches

Ann McClure's picture
Thursday, June 28, 2012

A popular University of Virginia president is forced to resign because board members thought she wasn't working quickly enough to address diminished funding and other challenges. Purdue University hires as its new president a governor who lacks academic experience but is adept at raising money and cutting education spending. And the president of the University of Texas enlists a committee of high-profile corporate executives to examine the school's budget and operations.

The governing boards of colleges and universities are increasingly demanding that their presidents perform more like corporate chief executives, much to the chagrin of academics who say treating colleges as businesses doesn't fit the mission of higher education. Experts say the recent moves largely have been spurred by federal and state funding cuts.

In Charlottesville, Va., the Board of Visitors ousted U.Va. President Teresa Sullivan earlier this month because some members thought she was moving too slowly to address shrinking government funding, develop more online courses and position U.Va.'s hospital to better compete with private health care providers.

Sullivan was reinstated Tuesday in a unanimous vote by the board nearly three weeks after her secretive ouster. The Faculty Senate and college deans stood behind Sullivan as students, faculty and alumni protested the forced resignation.

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