While University President Judith Rodin's decision not to replace Penn's outgoing business chief Clifford Stanley makes sense to many, the timing of the business chief's exit seems unusual to some experts.
"What seems odd is that somebody in such a senior position is leaving six months before the president is leaving," said Eva Ostrum, CEO of College Broadband, a New York-based educational consulting firm. "It would be more usual to announce, 'I'm leaving in June 2004,'" when Rodin is scheduled to step down.
On Oct. 1, Stanley announced his resignation, citing "personal reasons" for his departure. Officially leaving the University on Friday, he served only 360 days in office.
Rodin said last week that there were no plans to fill his position, at least not until she steps down in June.
Ostrum noted that "it makes a lot of sense that they'll want to fill those together," rather than conduct a costly search for a replacement who might not suit Rodin's successor.
Meanwhile, regardless of the title that person may hold, Ostrum said that it is "very common for a president of a university to have a right-hand man," calling it "highly unusual" for Penn's seven vice presidents -- all of whom formerly reported to Executive Vice President Stanley -- to answer directly to the president.
Those seven VPs may well enjoy that direct relationship.
"Nobody likes to report to the EVP -- they all want to report to the guy on top," said Michael Riccards, Public Policy Scholar in Residence at the College Board in Washington, D.C. "That's one of the problems."
Nevertheless, Riccards said that EVPs have become essential to large, complex research universities.
"There was a time when college presidents used to be on campus all the time," Riccards said. "Those days are of course over."
Riccards, who has served as the president of three colleges, said that, especially given the huge fundraising commitment of the modern university president, EVPs are almost a must-have.
"I don't think you can do without it, especially at an institution as... complex as Penn," Riccards said.
Riccards offered some suggestions as to where power might devolve in the absence of an EVP, citing senior academic and finance officers as likely de facto successors.
"I think there's no question that the academic vice president and the finance guys will become first among equals," Riccards said. "That's just expected."
Riccards explained that senior finance officers tend to "have a better feel for the organization" than academic officers, while academic officers' "ability to cause trouble" and sway over the faculty make them powerful in their own right.
Between them, the chief academic officer and highest ranking business officers left on the roster will assume a dominant role, Riccards said.
Other industry insiders stressed the importance of rolling with the punches in structuring an administrative hierarchy.
"Each campus develops its own administrative organization based on its history and its current needs," said Sally Springer, assistant chancellor at the University of California, Davis.
"There is no 'one-size-fits-all' model that works for all research universities, since campuses differ in their size, complexity and history, among many other variables."
Springer added that "at UC Davis, each time a senior administrative vacancy occurs, the chancellor uses the opportunity to decide whether the position should be replaced as is, or whether some kind of administrative restructuring should take place -- it can be a complex decision."
Though the University will now be losing both a president and an EVP in Rodin when she steps down, the immediate future of Penn's community initiatives and strategic plan seems secure, according to David Thornburgh, executive director of the Pennsylvania Economy League, Eastern Division, who co-chairs the Knowledge Industry Partnership, an organization designed to keep university graduates in Philadelphia, with Rodin.
Thornburgh added that there is a "depth of talent" among the members of vice presidential leadership.
"You don't build Sansom Commons, you don't do the movie theater, you don't do the UCD without some very strong management."Comments powered by Disqus
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