The University Record, December 12, 1995
Faculty look for person with vision, integrity, courage
By Mary Jo Frank
Nationally, there are a only handful of leaders in academe whose stature as president matches that of the president of the University of Michigan, according to Law School Dean Jeffrey S. Lehman.
Lehman and 29 other faculty members and deans discussed the desired characteristics of the next president and how to find the best person at a Dec. 4 forum---the first of nine sessions the Regents are conducting to solicit comments about the presidential search. More than 250 attended the forum for faculty members and deans.
Visionary leadership, integrity, administrative experience, an openness to the views of others and the ability to explain the academic mission of the University to a skeptical public are some of the qualities faculty and deans asked the Regents to look for.
Representing the chairs of all departments within LS&A, Frederick R. Amrine said the new president need not be a humanist by profession but should be someone who leads "the life of the mind," someone in whom "faculty can have confidence because he or she converses with us." Amrine is associate professor and chair of the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures.
A. Oveta Fuller, associate professor of microbiology and immunology, representing the Women of Color in the Academy Steering Committee, said the Regents should appoint a president with vision, humility, a sense of humor, someone who can give credit and yet take blame, someone who is courageous---a person "who can walk with kings and still keep the common touch."
A number of speakers praised President James J. Duderstadt's commitment to diversity and the Michigan Mandate and the Michigan Agenda for Women---strategic plans to accelerate efforts to bring all racial and ethnic groups and women more fully into the life of the University---and said they would like to see the next president demonstrate a similar record of commitment.
Speaking on behalf of the faculty's Subcommittee on a Multicultural University, Donald R. Deskins Jr. said the future of the University depends on it being inclusive. If the U-M is to maintain its global stature in a new international society, it must do more than provide access, according to Deskins, who is professor of urban geography and sociology.
Eva L. Feldman, associate professor of neurology, said the new president should understand the need for more opportunities for faculty women to provide leadership and should see women as equal partners. Currently, fewer than 10 percent of the University's professors are women, noted Feldman, who spoke on behalf of thePresident's Advisory Commission on Women's Issues.
Representing the Academic Women's Caucus, Cynthia L. Marcelo said, "Diversification of our faculty is essential to continue to provide our students the best, the broadest and the most relevant education. To do this, it is imperative that the Michigan Agenda, Michigan Mandate and similar affirmative action-type programs be of uppermost importance to the president of the University of Michigan. Commitment to diversity must be a fundamental, integral part of the character of our future president, not a tacked-on-concern for the job interview." Marcelo is associate research scientist in surgery in the Medical School.
Philosophy Prof. Carl Cohen urged the Regents to consider the views of a "substantial number of students and faculty" who, he said, are "touched by the perniciousness of programs that give deliberate preference by race and sex." Such programs as the Michigan Mandate and Michigan Agenda are unjust and unwise, Cohen said, because they impose burdens not deserved and cause injury. Such preferences create resentment that "bubbles in the cauldrons of our residence halls," said Cohen, who added that with all the talk of diversity and multiculturalism, race relations are at their lowest point during the four decades he has been on campus.
Although the Regents mostly listened, Regent Laurence B. Deitch did at one point assure the audience that Regental support for the Michigan Agenda and Michigan Mandate is "almost a given."
A number of faculty members talked about the importance of good faculty-presidential relations, including respect for faculty governance and support for tenure.
Martin Gold, president of the U-M Ann Arbor Chapter of the American Association of University Professors, said that in addition to having administrative experience and demonstrated scholarly attainment, the new president should understand and respect faculty governance and be willing and eager to consult with elected faculty leaders.
The new president also should be committed to faculty tenure, which is essential to academic freedom and enhances faculty loyalty, said Gold, professor emeritus of psychology.
Stephane LaFortune, associate professor of electrical engineeringand computer science, was one of many faculty members who urged the Regents to include faculty on any presidential search advisory committees they might appoint.
Economics Prof. W. James Adams suggested the Regents form a faculty advisory committee to channel the faculty's constructive thinking. Such a committee would enhance the legitimacy of the next president, reveal the quality of the faculty and might help restore the faith of a sometimes skeptical public, Adams said.
Bunyan I. Bryant Jr., associate professor of natural resources, suggested the Regents also invite a couple of students to sit on any advisory committee.
A number of faculty members voiced their confidence that the Regents will find the best person to serve as the 12th president of the University.
Reflecting on his 44-year attachment to the University as a student and faculty member, David W. Hessler said the Regents have always picked a president for the time: Harlan Hatcher during a time of growth, Robben W. Fleming in the tumultuous '60s and '70s, Harold T. Shapiro during a time of downsizing, and Duderstadt when the University needed to rebuild its infrastructure and work to achieve diversity.
"You have an awesome responsibility," said Hessler, professor of information and library studies, who asked that the Regents select a president who is a leader, a good listener and who loves Michigan.