Chronicle editorial examines leadership from President Brodhead

✔ FC here. Good day Fellow Dukies!

The first words of today's Chronicle editorial incisively recognize the problem: both Nan Keohane and Dick Brodhead grant "rare access" to students.

With Nan, it's understandable. After all she's retired from Duke, wisely moving off campus to spare her successor constant comparison with her amazing tenure, now residing in a big house with glorious trees on a quiet street in Princeton. Nan, welcome back for a rare visit!

But with Dick Brodhead, he's here. And should be alive among us. And he's not.

This morning, the Chronicle singles out his absence on campus culture issues.

✔ Fifty one weeks ago, a more emphatic Chronicle editorial made the same point -- but on the fiscal crisis that is crimping Duke. And so it has been on issue after issue. He's invisible, reclusive.

Your editorial a year ago was written as the President was going to emerge out of hiding and stand on the campus before the Academic Council. "Brodhead should come prepared with answers." Boy, today's editorial sounds the same theme: "students seek the wisdom of presidential leadership to offer clarity in the form of straightforward opinion."

A year ago, the editorial held out hope for leadership, but a follow up was headlined "Brodhead's incomplete address."

"... what was missing from his speech ... was a straightforward analysis of the “short view” and a clear presentation of the University’s strategy.."

" .. administrators should be able to offer ... conclusive answers ... instead of noncommittal 'maybes.'"

"Brodhead should speak openly and candidly to the Duke community as a whole. We need to know the specifics of how the administration is moving forward..."

✔✔ So Dick, here's the plan:

✔ First, give up your parking space on the main quad and replant grass there. Park near the Clock Tower and walk down to Allen Building every day. Stand out front between classes like you once did.

This is nothing imaginatively original: Dean Nowicki has enunciated the same idea for the new Keohane dorm, create points where students just pass each other and interact.

✔ Second, use the internet. Sir, the website you designated to keep stakeholders informed of the fiscal crisis is in shambles, a meltdown worse than the value of the endowment. Look at it, update it, make it an avenue of communication instead of a joke.

Ditto the plans for Kunshan. There is no reason you do not involve us and share everything on the internet. A map of the new campus that is your signature project. A description of the buildings. Copies of the agreements you signed. There is no reason why FC has had to write and rewrite your fellow administrators, and still not have such basics.

Oh yes, your personal website, Mr. President. Your contemporaries use this as a means to communicate, but yours is woefully out of date, your last speech for example on May 14, 2010. Your e-mail update to alumni from April 21, 2010 is there, but not your update on January 21 of this year.

And a couple of other things: update your pic, because you look different than you did with the stach the first week of your arrival. And provide a way that people can discover you even have a website -- they're called links -- so they do not have to rely on FC!!! http://www.duke.edu/president/

Oh yes, Include a welcome message on the home page, which alone among your peer presidents, you do not offer.

The same is true of the trustee website. The recount of "action" of the Trustees is an insult to anyone who wants to follow the affairs of Duke University. Rather than aiding your work, it hurts it.

✔ 3) Tell your administrative cohorts to stop being so sanctimonious. They do not own this place. They are like the janitors, with the keys right now. They should respect all stakeholders, be courteous in responding, have open office hours like you do, and schedule times when they can guarantee they will be reachable by phone. The ideas of stakeholders -- students, parents, faculty and alumni -- must not only be heard, but included.

✔ 4) Be strong. Let me cite an example from the Potti Mess. When asked about the lies in his credentials -- at that point we had confirmed he faked a Rhodes Scholarship and other issues were in the air -- you said be careful, there can be truth, there can be lies, and there can be "intermediate explanation."

Here is what you should have said. "We are checking the credentials carefully. We expect this to be completed in three days and I will report to you personally. I can assure you now that if anyone lies on their resume, I will kick their ass out of here."

Even when Potti's fraud was confirmed, you let him fester, paid, as a faculty member.

With respect to Potti's patients, you should address them personally, apologize, bring them together in a forum so they can support each other, and then tell us that you have done this.

You must assure us that the medical administration's misdeeds -- including concealing an e-mail from a distinguished scientist outlining very specifically how Potti was a quack -- are being investigated. By whom?

And on another note, on drinking, do you or do you not favor lowering the drinking age? You signed the Amethyst Initiative with a wishy washy call for a national conversation; take the lead and schedule one.

✔✔ What's amazing is that Duke faces the same problems today, that it did half a century ago, with precious little progress. The undergraduate dorms are beautiful -- until you go inside and discover they are not conducive to studing nor socializing. Or as a history professor was fond of saying in the 1950's, "If I lived there, I'd make drink beer and make C's too."

Quad models? Fraternities? Try the Parker Report, part of the first strategic planning Duke ever did in 1958.

Fraternities? Go back 19 years and listen to Reynolds Price at Founder's Day, saying we must rid the campus of them. Oh yes, he also said the place was not sober anymore.

✔✔ And so today, this time with the student government as sponsor, Brodhead again has a public conversation. Let's hope that in our next essay FC can report that it was a new conversation with new emphatic direction, and not a continuation of the old.

Thank you for reading FC