College Leadership Crisis: The Philip Dolly Affair
Jann M. Contento and Jeffrey Ross
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Call Me Phil
I'm Phil Dolly, EdD, recently resigned, or deposed, community college president.
Yesterday I was the CEO at North East Central Community College here in Folsom County, West Dakota. Today, I'm contemplating my own crisis in leadership. Following a faculty vote of no confidence and caving in to growing board pressure, I packed it in this morning. No one was surprised, really, including me. But more about that later...
This evening I am sitting here at the bar nursing a weak gin and tonic, assessing the landscape of my shattered career. This place is nothing fancy, that's for sure. I don't know when it saw fresh air last. Located in Payson, West Dakota, this bar and grill has been owned by the same guy, I.M. Tyred, for nearly a decade. I'm a little bit out of my element--but I'm comforted by the visual relics of my own blue collar past--seed company calendars, jars of pickled pig's feet, softball trophies, and the effervescent aroma of bacon, beer, and cheese. Many of the locals know me and enjoy seeing me stop in for an occasional drink. I probably get in here once a month. Maybe more.
I'm not sure what happened. Enrollments didn't increase, but they didn't decline much, either. We opened up more centers. I had bandwidth upgraded. I was in Rotary Club. I brought in some of my former graduate school colleagues from University of Toledo at Arlington to help invigorate the executive staff and to help bring this district into the 21st century in terms of management. I wanted diversity on the management team.
Hmm, I made all of the directors deans and all of the deans became associate VPs. Only one of the new VPs had emotional problems, but no damage was done. He checked into rehab. Our quality initiatives must have moved the college forward. We redid offices, put in new floors and windows, and really spruced the place up too. We won several national awards.
I remember there was some grousing when I had the president's salary increased to 475K, but the board agreed we needed to be competitive in future presidential searches.
I guess the future arrived more quickly than I anticipated.
The hazy blue smoke in this bar settles at about stool seat level. I wish I.M. Tyred would do something. Why doesn't he install some fans or air purifiers or something? I should say something before I have another asthma attack. The country music just drones on and on. All those sad songs about lying, drinking, and needing to be somewhere else are driving me crazy. How do these people stand it?
The lights around the mirrors seem so harsh. I barely recognize my own face in the mirror--the burdens of leadership, I guess. All those retreats, keynote speeches, conferences, dinners, trips to Europe--just so much, so much over the years.
The governing board said I spent too much time out of state. They said I belonged to too many national organizations and attended too many conferences. They just don't understand the difficult and complicated nature of being a community college president. Networking means survival and prosperity for the institution and for me. They don't understand the community is much bigger now. We can serve China! GIs! Nebraska! Technology has empowered us to do so much more than teach welding, massage therapy, and fertilizer applications.
We ought to do more than just serve the needs of our county taxpayers! We can have the reputation of being a global higher education leader! Oh, I guess it's no longer we.