Monday, October 07, 2013

The Next President of Howard University

Last updated: Tuesday 10/8/13 @ 2:51 pm
The sudden retirement by Dr. Sidney A. Ribeau on Tuesday 10/1/13 from the presidency of Howard University was surprising.  Indeed, the classy letter he sent to the Howard community that announced his departure in December 2013 contained no hints as to why he was leaving, thereby unleashing torrents of ill-informed speculation.


His letter was vintage Ribeau ==> an upbeat declaration that conveyed no malice towards whichever person or persons drove him to leave our community only three months after he had signed a two year extension on his original contract. So the good news within the bad news for those of us who knew him was that the man who was leaving was the same thoroughly decent human being that he was when he arrived here five years ago. Indeed, I have told more than a few friends that if I ever got into such serious trouble that I wasn't allowed to call my family or my lawyer, I would call Sidney Ribeau ... :-)

But therein lies the rub. Being a thoroughly decent person was not enough to overcome the perfect storm of complex managerial challenges that descended upon our university in the years just prior to his arrival, a perfect storm that had also driven his predecessor from the presidency. Sidney Ribeau's unfailing decency evoked unfailing good will from our community ... but it was not enough. He was a competent academic manager with a solid record of administrative achievements prior to his arrival here, just like his predecessor ... but it was not enough. IMHO Sideney Ribeau would have been one of the two or three most successful presidents in Howard's history in more normal times. Unfortunately, some deep organizational flaws were greatly exacerbated by the Great Recession, thereby catapulting Howard University into the most highly un-normal times in its history.

Nor will it be enough for our next president to be a "rock star" or an "international celebrity" or an "acclaimed academic" or a "former high level political appointee with lots of wealthy friends." So if you are one or more of the above or any of the other multitude of foolish fantasies being facebooked and tweeted in the last few days -- and if that's all you are -- please do yourself and the Howard community a huge favor ==> do NOT apply for this position, nor allow yourself to be drafted by well meaning, but ill-informed members of the media who clearly have no idea what you will be up against.

NOTE #1: The opinions expressed in this essay are the personal opinions of its author, Roy L Beasley; that's all they are.

Note #2:  In response to the question from some readers ==> Yes, the author's strongly held personal opinions were posted in response to (a) a flurry of tweets that he received on Tuesday 10/1/13, and (b) the op-ed piece by Jarrett L. Carter -- "Condoleeza Rice Should be Howard's Next President"  -- that was published in the Huffington Post on Monday 10/7/13 

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