Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Daniels Decides On A Different Kind Of Presidential Job

Political observers were caught off guard by today's announcement that Gov. Mitch Daniels will become the new president of Purdue University at the end of his term, succeeding France Cordova. The IBJ reports that Purdue's trustees are scheduled to meet on Thursday to approve Daniels' appointment according to a source familiar with the university's selection process. A press conference to announce the appointment will take place Friday in Indianapolis at the JW Marriott. An interim successor for Cordova is expected to be named to serve until Daniels leaves office next January. This should finally remove any doubts about whether Daniels would be willing to be Mitt Romney's running mate. Daniels has insisted that he was not interested in being Vice President after turning down an opportunity to seek the Republican presidential nomination this year, but political pundits have persisted in throwing his name into the mix. I'm surprised that Daniels would be interested in being a university president. It will be interesting to watch the reaction of Purdue's academic community to this news.

UPDATE: The Star has some initial reaction from the academic community with some questioning his qualifications for the job while others lauded the news:

“I think the faculty would feel more comfortable with someone who has academic experience, someone who’s stood in front of a class of Purdue students after a long party weekend and gained their attention — these kind of challenges,” said Otto Doering, professor of agricultural economics at Purdue, who has advised Indiana governors since the 1970s.
To succeed, he said, Daniels will need to immediately reach out to faculty members and include them in his plans.
Last fall, the board’s search committee asked the University Senate to conduct a survey that asked students, faculty and staff what kind of expertise they wanted in their next president. All groups surveyed agreed it was “essential that the new president have academic credentials equivalent to a tenured full professor,” the committee wrote in its executive summary.
Daniels has an undergraduate degree from Princeton University and a law degree from Georgetown University, but he has spent his career in business and government settings, not in a classroom or research lab.
By contrast, Purdue’s presidents have usually been top scholars and lifelong academics, with degrees in medicine, engineering or physics. C√≥rdova, the current president, is an internationally known astrophysicist.
That said, as word of Daniels’ selection reverberated around the campus, some faculty said they were softening their view that the next president must have an academic background.
“It got me thinking here’s an individual who’s been successful in business,” said David J. Williams, a veterinary professor of medical illustration and vice president of the University Senate. “Here’s an individual who’s been successful in the political arena who could harness all this creative energy at Purdue. I find that part of the idea of Mitch Daniels . . . that part of it I find exciting.”
Joe Rust, student government president at Purdue, said many students are excited by news of Daniels’ selection but concerned about his track record with higher education funding. Purdue lost about $45.5 million over two years in state funding, starting in 2009, in part because of Daniels’ instructions to the Indiana Commission on Higher Education to cut higher-education funding.
Still, many observers lauded the choice, calling Daniels a strong executive with a history of guiding large organizations, from Indiana government to his tenure as a senior executive at Eli Lilly and Co.
“It doesn’t concern me that he doesn’t have an academic background,” said Philip T. Powell, associate professor of business economics and public policy at Indiana University. “He’s a proven leader. He can bring a battleship of talent with him.” . . .


Indy Rob said...

Daniels may have been a good governor but I am waiting to see what happens when the toll road money runs out. He seems to be an odd choice for an university president given the lack of an academic background.

artfuggins said...

...and one of his achievements was to make available Western Governors University to compete with the state universities. This may turn into a circus.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Indy Rob...Daniels does not "lack an academic background." He has an undergrad degree from Princeton and a law degree from Georgetown. The fact he hasn't taught or been involved in college administration may well actually be a plus. The problem with colleges and universities is that there has been no attempt to control costs in higher education. Daniels may well change that.

Indy Rob said...

Paul, while Daniels has an impressive resume and education (college and law school graduate), drug company executive, followed by being a director of the OMB, Indiana's governor, the complete absence of any academic background means that he is ill qualified to take over as the head of an enormous university.

I doubt that Mitch Daniels will be able to distinguish between gold-plating verses necessary expenses due to his lack of hands on experience with running a college and raising funds.

I also find his selection as Purdue's President a clear demonstration of partisanship due to the fact that he appointed 8 of the 10 Purdue board members.