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Wednesday, February 23, 2005

University Presidents as CEOs

There are a lot of parallels between Lawrence Summers at Harvard and Constantine Papadakis at Drexel: Both have strong personalities (more like a CEO of a company than like the traditional academic); both are trying to bring more of a business management style to the running of a university; both favor a more vertical management style.

Not surprisingly, they both regularly bump antlers with the faculty at their institutions. Today's Wall Street Journal runs a page 1 story titled "
How Dr. Papadakis Runs a University Like a Company" (subscription required for online access) on Papadakis' recent history at Drexel. As a business school professor, I don't have as much problem with his emphasis on marketing and the bottom line. However, there are a lot of faculty that seem to have problems with both his style and his general philosophy.

He's clearly done a great job at what I think is a university president's main job - he's brought in a lot of money. Of course, as a finance professor, I believe most problems can be alleviated with more money (or maybe the converse - most problems are made worse with a lack of money). I've got several friends at Drexel's B-school, and they're pretty happy with him so far. Of course, they're also Finance folks, so they share many of my biases.

This illustrates a previous point - a strong leader will invariably tick some people off. Unfortunately, academics are generally not risk takers (the tenure setting discourages it). So, we say we want visionaries and change agents, and then get mad at these same people when they try to do what we hire them for.

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