The UVA Mess

Haven’t posted a lot about the UVA mess, but I’ve been absolutely fascinated by it.  I really like Big Steve’s take, especially this part:

One can debate about whether “business model” as a concept applies to a university given that:

“Universities have multiple inputs & uncountable and unpredictable outputs. And that’s how we like them.” From Slate

But the idea that universities should adopt strategic dynamism is silliness.  Universities cannot adjust quickly to exogenous shocks and changes in the marketplace.  Much of what we do involves reputations–that schools are valued for perceived impact, whether that is teaching, the quality of the students or in research.  None of that changes very quickly.  Universities are less like sailboats and more like aircraft carriers–damn hard to turn around quickly.

While I like to generalize and move around in my research, I know there are many things I cannot do, including run a business.  Perhaps those who run businesses might be just a bit more humble about their expertise beyond their experiences.  Dan Snyder has not been very good for the Washington Redskins football team despite being a dandy businessperson.  Peter Angelos was a very successful lawyer, but the Orioles have failed since he got the franchise.  Just perhaps the big business folks who got appointed to the Board of Visitors have few clues about what it takes to run a university.  Just a guess.

Slate’s John Dickerson has a really nice piece about how the Board of Visitors took a risk in the firing, but then had no idea what to do if their risk failed (which it clearly did).

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

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