The Public Voices of Private College Presidents: Higher Education Leaders Are Taking a Stand and Speaking Out

By Ekman, Richard | University Business, August 2007 | Go to article overview

The Public Voices of Private College Presidents: Higher Education Leaders Are Taking a Stand and Speaking Out


Ekman, Richard, University Business


COLLEGE PRESIDENTS ARE increasingly called upon to defend the historic missions and principles on which their institutions were founded and to explain to prospective students, their families, and the public the value of the education they offer. However, college and university presidents also have an obligation to address social issues with direct or even tangential implications for higher education.

These higher ed leaders are well prepared to contribute in meaningful ways to national and international conversations. Colleges and universities with distinctive missions and educational philosophies--including women's colleges, historically black colleges, "great books" colleges, and colleges affiliated with religious denominations--continue to exist at least partly because their presidents speak out with courage and conviction about the value of a diverse array of educational choices.

Presidential leadership is often a matter of making discrete decisions that anticipate a future in which the institution will thrive. Sometimes that means offering a spirited defense of the college's historic values, and sometimes it means pursuing entirely new directions.

Officials at Hillsdale College (Mich.), for example, believe so deeply that the government should not meddle in higher education that they have not accepted federal funds for many years. More recently, several dozen college presidents have come to believe so strongly that U.S. News & World Report measures the wrong things that they have decided not to participate in the annual "reputational" rankings.

COURAGEOUS OR COWARDLY?

A president who takes a stand that resonates with the college's distinctive traditions while the surrounding culture moves in another direction, it is assumed, shows courage, while a president who departs from the institution's traditions demonstrates even more courage. It is believed that a president who takes a stand on an issue that has implications beyond the campus itself exemplifies the boldest leadership of all.

But it is not that simple. Consider, for example, the president who vigorously defends the American role in Iraq. Is he courageous in speaking out in support of an unpopular war even though the campus is near a large military base and many of its students are from military families?

While many campuses are taking dramatic steps to become more "green" in recognition of the precariousness of the global environment, would the college president who champions the opposite case be seen as bold or cowardly?

MATTERS OF PRINCIPLE

These days, colleges with clear religious identities often face challenges to the role of their traditions in contemporary society and thereby present dilemmas for presidents. If data show, for example, that non-Lutheran students tend to do better academically at Lutheran colleges than they do at secular institutions, how actively should the president of a Lutheran college promote the institution among non-Lutherans? If a Methodist-affiliated college in the Southeast experiences increasingly large enrollments of Catholic students from northern cities, how should the president address this trend?

Big lessons emerge from finite episodes. After a church burning in which at least one student was implicated, the president of Birmingham-Southern College (Ala.), David Pollick, announced that the college itself would help to reconstruct the building. He could have spoken out against this criminal act and punished the student but not committed the institution to help the community in this way. Pollick chose to go further.

After Hurricane Katrina, hundreds of colleges and universities throughout the country accepted students who had been displaced from Gulf Coast institutions, often providing financial assistance. These institutions volunteered--quickly and quietly--long after their annual budgets had been set. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Public Voices of Private College Presidents: Higher Education Leaders Are Taking a Stand and Speaking Out
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.