Sunday, February 3, 2008

The More Things Change . . .

"Locally, it's a sure thing that among the biggest stories of 2008 will be the gradual replacement of multiple longtime leaders in Northwest Arkansas," said one of our prescient local editors. Elections will give voters an opportunity to decide who some of those replacements will be. In other instances, the voice of the people will make no difference. The names and faces will change, but that is about all.

The selection of the new Chancellor at the University of Arkansas is a good example of what I mean. David Gearhart might be wonderful, and both The Morning News and the Northwest Arkansas Times have given their editorial blessings to his anointment. Yet, the process by which B. Alan Sugg alone chose Gearhart was terribly flawed. The position was not advertised, there was no national search, and the faculty and students were not involved other than as inert props when Sugg declared his decision. So much for the UA's false claim of being committed to diversity and affirmative action, betrayed when White Boy Sugg tagged White Boy Gearhart.

The University of Arkansas has never had a woman president or chancellor in the 137 years since it was founded, and there has never been more than one token woman on the 10-member Board of Trustees.
More than 120 women are currently serving as president of a leading college or university in the United States, so it is not like women cannot do the job. Drew Gilpin Faust of Harvard, Amy Gutmann of the University of Pennsylvania, Arkansas native Nannerl Overholser Keohane of Duke, Susan Hockfield of MIT, Mary Sue Coleman of the University of Michigan, Sally Clausen of the University of Louisiana System, and Caroline Whitson of Columbia College put the lie to that myth, but they weren't even considered.

One recent study of 136 college executives indicated that women presidents
had "a wider definition of entrepreneurial leadership than their male counterparts" and were more likely to "include new ventures and risk taking in curriculum, student social programs and living arrangements, community involvement, and faculty appointment, promotion and tenure. Their attitudes, values and actions portray broader notions of how one can inspire institutional change and improvement." Not here. Same goes any potential minority candidates, who were also ignored by President Sugg, a native of Helena.

Then there is the upcoming replacement for School Superintendent Bobby New, which is likely to continue the unbroken line of white male supers in the district.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, 72% of all K-12 educators in this country are women, but only 17% of 13,000 superintendents are women. Whether that is because school boards won't hire women or because few of them have been head coaches, we don't know. Sandy Garrett has been State Superintendent of Public Instruction in Oklahoma since 1991, and Dr. Janie Darr, Superintendent at Rogers who is neither retired military nor a former football coach, shows that women can do the job quite well. The percentages for minority superintendents are even worse, about 5.1% and mostly in majority black districts, according to American Association of School Administrators President Eugene White, who is not white. Chances are that the Fayetteville School District's next hire will be a white guy and that patrons will have no real voice and little influence on the decision.

Finally, the Chamber of Cowbirds will be looking to replace President and CEO Bill Ramsey. Can you remember the last time the Chamber chose a woman or a person of color to lead their efforts? Didn't think so.
The American Chamber of Commerce Executives sells a guide to Chief Executive Succession Planning, authored by Nancy R. Axelrod, but what are the chances that a woman will be selected here? Kathy Snyder has served as President and CEO of the Maryland State Chamber of Commerce since 1999; Barbara A. McNees has served as the president of the Greater Pittsburgh (PA) Chamber of Commerce since 1997; and Debi Durham, president of the Siouxland Chamber of Commerce, was one of the consultants hired by Mayor Dan Coody to shape our local economic development efforts. They are smart and capable, but they lack one tiny thing.

The local Cowbirds seem to think that all leaders must be white businessmen and that women, minorities, and workers cannot contribute more than their looks or their labor. The Fayetteville Economic Development Council
Executive Board President and all 11 members are white businessmen. To keep others from playing with the big boys, there is a separate Women's Chamber of Commerce, a Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and a segregated African-American Chamber of Commerce. Don't look for the Cowbird's next President to come from them.

Yes, big changes are coming to Fayetteville in 2008, and that will be among the biggest news stories.

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