Hulshof not ready to lead UM System

Friday, June 1, 2007 | 12:18 a.m. CDT; updated 10:54 a.m. CST, Wednesday, February 4, 2009

It’s a logical statement. I write political editorials. I teach at a local college. Therefore, I am an expert on the nominations for president of the University of Missouri System. Right? Not really, though friends and colleagues do not hesitate to ask my opinion about Congressman Kenny Hulshof’s nomination. Here it is …

First, I like Kenny. The congressman has helped me on a few issues, has spoken to my class at Columbia College and has represented central Missouri well. He is a nice guy and knows the ins and outs of Washington — how to play the game. We disagree on many issues, politically sitting on opposite sides of the proverbial fence, but his motives are always sincere.

In the world of post-secondary education, your degree is your ticket. A Ph.D. is the “A” ticket, the only ticket to the high road. The “B” ticket is a master’s degree, acceptable for a limited number of teaching and professional positions (unless you have a Master of Fine Arts degree, which is a terminal degree). A juris doctorate is also a “B” ticket, unless you teach law or are the lobbyist or spokesperson for the school. There is no “C” ticket. In academia, most of the time experience supports the degree, not the other way around.

The man leaving the UM System holds the benefits of sheepskin, history and experience. Dr. Elson Floyd’s background, to say the least, is an exceptional combination of education, academic management and leadership. No wonder Washington State University recruited him so hard. He is leaving big shoes to fill.

Hulshof’s resume is also impressive. As an attorney, prosecutor and U.S. representative, his background is solid. Yet, there is little management or academic experience in his résume. Cinderella, though attractive, your ‘feet’ appear to be just too small to fill those shoes.

The most pervasive argument for Hulshof’s candidacy is his “conservative politics,” which would align him with the current state legislative and executive branches. However, that will last for only so long, for the elections in 2008 may change the structure of one, if not both political branches. Any advantage the congressman has may be short lived.

As a lobbyist or spokesperson, Hulshof’s unbiased support for post-secondary education and the advancement of science and philosophy would bring the UM System immeasurable success. Sadly, it appears that he just does not have the management or academic experience to be the best match to lead the university into and beyond the next decade. I am sorry to say Hulshof is not of the caliber of Dr. Floyd. Indeed, Dr. Floyd will be difficult to replace.

What I find most interesting is that the focus, all of the focus, is on Kenny. Is this a case for “CSI: Columbia” to identify the other candidates? From what universities or colleges, what departments of higher education do they hail? What credentials of leadership do they possess? Do we need to get “CSI:New York,” Miami and Las Vegas to assist in this caper? Should we ask Columbia College’s forensic science program to look for DNA evidence? Is it a violation of the law?

As for the last, apparently the answer is no. It appears that Missouri’s Sunshine Law does not require that the meetings concerning the hiring of employees to be open to the public and recommendations may remain closed to the public. The public’s input concerning the top position of the state’s prestigious institutions of education will remain nil. That is a shame.

It is time for the search committee to inform the public about the other candidates for the presidency of the UM System. The interviews are over, and the selection of finalists completed. Notifications to former or current employers are done, and the secret identities are tentative at best. The public’s comments are an important part of selecting a public image of our universities. It is not as if we are protecting the identity of a superhero. The UM System is just trying to replace one.

David Rosman is a Columbia resident who teaches at Columbia College.

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