Archive for August, 2012

I got a real eye opener this summer.   At the request of the president, our university has assembled a strategic planning committee.   What surprised me was the composition of the committee.    What percentage of the university strategic planning committee was devoted to academics?   What percentage of the university strategic planning committee was composed of individuals with a Ph.D.?   The answers:

% of individuals on university planning committee in tenure-track position:  19.2%

% of individuals on university planning committee with a Ph.D.:  28.5%

% of individuals on university planning committee with a Ph.D. but not a full-time administrator:  14.2%

If academics don’t define the strategic direction of the university, then what does?

finance & budget

information technology

student services


institutional research

human resources

Earlier I had posted a story about how Dwight Eisenhower had been informed by a senior faculty member at Columbia University that “the university is the faculty”.    I guess I had always believed this.   Now, based on my observations I would say:

14.2% of the university is the faculty

How are things at your university?   What percentage of the strategic planning at the university level involves tenure-track faculty in non-administrative roles?   If you do some investigation, I think you will find that it is much lower than you would expect.

– from the pen of Dr. Percy Trappe


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Dwight DavidIkeEisenhower was the 34th President of the United States from 1953 until 1961. During World War II he was a five-star general in the United States Army, and served as Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe.   An often overlooked fact is that Ike served as President of Columbia University from 1948 to 1953.

The following story, told by Dr. Tony Alessandra, highlights some of the humility (and humor) that accompanies the role of academic administrator.

At that time, there was a Professor at Columbia named Isidore Rabi, who had worked on the development of the atomic bomb and who subsequently won the Nobel Prize. At a faculty ceremony in honor of the professor’s achievement, Eisenhower made a brief speech. It included a remark about how it was always good to see an employee of the university get recognized. At that point, Professor Rabi interrupted him and said, “Excuse me, sir, but the faculty are not employees of the university. The faculty are the university!” 

I have to agree with Dr. Rabi on this one.   I try never to forget that the “heart and soul” of the university is its faculty!
– from the pen of Dr. Percy Trappe
[note: for a list of famous university presidents, including Dwight Eisenhower, see the blog post “List of Famous University Presidents (United States)“.]
[note: for more on the life of Isidor Isaac Rabi, see the “Isidor Rabi Living Legacies article” in the Columbia University Magazine, Summer 2001.]

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