David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
Welcome To My World

September 23, 2022

Inside Higher Ed today posted a lengthy story on the challenges with the recently concluded search for a Chancellor for the State University System of Florida. Initially, I wasn't even going to read it because a) it's Florida, c'mon; b) it's political; and c) it's a state system, very foreign to me happily living in the autonomous Michigan higher education. As a side note, I learned at a meeting this week that Michigan's unique, as in the only one, environment of autonomous institutions ties back to the University of Michigan existing before we were a state, and thus had the ability to say, "uh-uh, no way you are taking away my individuality" (I may be paraphrasing) when the state Constitution was created. Yep, some things haven't changed.

Inevitably I was drawn to the story because, well a) it's Florida, c'mon and b) it's a state system that in my mind must take administrative headaches to the third power.

Instead, I find that my small, rural community college world shares a lot with the Florida state system. I'll just take a half dozen points from the article for a quick comparison:

1) "The latest search for a new chancellor of the second-largest public university system in the U.S. yielded only eight applicants."  Eight candidates!  "You lucky, lucky bastard," I yell from my prison cell. My last posting for a full-time Accounting professor yielded 6 applicants. A posting for a lab assistant produced 2 applicants. A search for an administrative position ended up with 6 applicants.  Look, the national narrative is that no one wants to work, apparently even as a College Chancellor.

More so, you don't know how many qualified candidates got fed up with your online application system and bailed out, fed up. Who wants to input every position you've ever held prior? (Let's face it, most of these candidates will be older than dirt and could have fifteen former positions to enter.) "They're listed on the freaking C.V.!" we all want to write.

2) "A ninth application, which lacked substantial information and listed President Joe Biden as a reference, was marked 'incomplete.'” HR is our risk management gatekeeper, and thus rules the world. In another time, I participated in a debate as to whether students applying for a student worker job could list a faculty member as a reference. Conflict of interest was cited. Stop using your buddies as references, Chancellor candidates.

3) "None of the applicants had experience as a college president, a qualification that experts say is often desirable in a system head." Inevitably several of the candidates who apply to our positions don't have the basic qualifications. They are usually the first to apply, the desperate committed to applying to any position, in hopes of slipping through. With the job market as desperate as it is, perhaps Florida made "college president experience" a preferred requirement.

4) "Some were international applicants who had spent most or all of their careers working outside the U.S." Well, duh, this is an academic search. Post for any faculty position and half of the applications will inevitably be of an international origin, usually the Ph.D. or Ph.D. post-doc hoping to find a job after finishing their stint with Harvard, Michigan or Stanford (see this concurrent IHE story showing that 1 in 8 Ph.D. trained faculty members come from 5 institutions). Perhaps Governor DeSantis could fly these applicants to Martha's Vineyard for mock (truly) interviews.

5) "Three applicants who spoke to Inside Higher Ed said they were never contacted during the search process, even to confirm receipt of their submitted materials."  Hey, we send all updates for searches through the electronic automated response, thank you very much. Maybe it got captured as Spam.

6) “The jobs of system heads are very different than leading a campus." Justify it all you want, bucko, but we still need to ensure equity across our classifications of employees. We can't have an entry level Chancellor position not align with our entry level Admissions' position. Surely the Board for a university state system would understand the E in DEI?

Gee, all of a sudden I don't feel so alone in the Higher Education realm. Unfortunately, I guess in the words of Blue Oyster Cult, "the Florida curse always comes true. . . any fragile soul can become a Florida Man."1  Stay tuned for a photograph from my criminal booking.

1"Florida Man." Blue Oyster Cult. The Symbol Remains. Frontiers, 2020.