The University Presidency: Do Evaluations Make a Difference?

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High turnover and short tenures are the norm for state university presidents in the last part of the twentieth century. Depending on the type of institution, the average state university president stays in office about four years, some three years shorter than the national average of seven years for all higher education institutions. The article discusses this trend and relates length of tenure to the formal and informal evaluations of presidents. Beginning with a presentation of presidential tenure (time in office) data and a discussion of the benefits of longer terms, the article continues with a dialogue on the role of the president in state institutions of higher education. It is argued that the position of president necessitates constituent leadership with presidents often expected to please all constituencies. Included in this discussion are the nature, role, and effectiveness of evaluations of university presidents. The authors conclude that evaluations of presidents make little difference in decisions to retain or remove presidents. Even a good or great evaluation does not offset the impact of the unforseen event or changes in political leadership within a state or on a board. The authors agree that annual reviews or reports are valuable in improving a president's performance and leadership. Evaluations make a difference when they are supervised by individuals with direct knowledge of the job, are fair in terms of expectations from often divergent constituent groups, and focus on maximizing the ability of the president to improve the institution.

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