Fact Checker Aug 31 - New Brodhead contract

Fact checker

posted 8/31/09 @ 3:45 AM EST

For those of you who expected to read NEWS in the Chronicle, rather than an account of last week's music, Fact Checker does not disappoint.

Fact Checker has learned that at its June 19, 2009 meeting, the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees approved a five year extension of President Brodhead's contract.

This action, its timing and the failure of the Trustees and Administration to publicly announce this... all raise intriguing questions that must be addressed.

As you may recall Brodhead arrived in the summer of 2004, his five year contract publicly announced.

First: why wasn't the president's renewal on the same timetable as all other officers -- that is, after the three year evaluation, renewed during the fourth year?

Why did Brodhead have to wait until the very end of his five years?

Examples of other renewals:

Chancellor Dzau arrived at the same time as Brodhead. After Dzau had a three year review, the normal pattern was followed -- and on April 15, 2008 (note 2008) Duke made official announcement during his 4th year of a new five year contract extension.

The same pattern was followed for Provost Lange. In fact the April 15, 2008 announcement included a 3rd five year term for him beginning in September 2009; the careful reader will recall that he had moved up from chair of the political science department to Provost in 1999.

We know from the exultant reaction of Chair Steel that Brodhead's review went off on schedule and also was pleasing to Steel.

Why did it take another one year and two months for Trustees to renew Brodhead, someone who arrived at Duke and began his five year term on precisely the same day as Dzau?

Was Brodhead reluctant to commit? Was Duke???

There is more to think about.

Brodhead's recent discussion with a Chronicle columnist (one of the few good columns in more than a year dealing a campus topic and involving an actual interview and actual quotes with a local newsmaker) toyed with the idea of a return to teaching. At 62, he is the precise age as President Nan Keohane was when she announced her resignation, effective one year later, to return to full academic life.

Second, while a year ago neither Brodhead nor Duke could have realized the following scenario, it does come into play:

Consider a major fund-raising campaign. Brodhead -- born 1947 -- is 62 or 63. Because of the economy, the big boom campaign contemplated for the Brodhead years (the Financial Aid Initiative was merely a placeholder) will have to be delayed at least three years or so from now before public launch.

And the campaign will be huge -- maybe $4 billion? -- and require at least five years on the public stage.

Add it up. That makes Brodhead suddenly 71 years old, in an very demanding position leading a campaign, a position he cannot in good conscience abandon in mid-stream, with little prime time left for academic life after he leaves the Presidency. Is this the scenario he wants?

Lastly Fact Checker wonders why the Executive Committee handled this renewal? While the By-Laws do give the Exec Committee full powers of the Trustees between quarterly meetings of the full board, as a courtesy a job like this should be filled by vote of every Trustee, perhaps at the plenary Commencement meeting less than a month earlier. That was the pattern for other top officers (See Chancellor Dzau, Provost Lange discussed above).

Thank you for reading, supporting and thinking about Fact Checker.

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