At one university, students select as their commencement speaker a man on death row for murdering a police officer. At another, the student newspaper editors tell the president that intend to publish an advertisment claiming that the Holocaust did not exist. Charges of racial discrimination and retribution in the university athletic department arrive on the desk of a brand-new president of another school. Student activists occupy a building to protest another college's contract with a food service provider because of its corporate ties to the private prison industry. At Miami University, the debate over the school nickname provides a retrospective look at the topic uniting all these situations: leadership amid controversy.
Presidential duties are not all fun and games, and the visible nature of the presidential position is not always so desirable. This volume examines the position of the president during times of great controversy at an institution. Five presidents describe highly charged events on their campuses when constituents disagreed sharply and all were certain that righteousness and virtue were theirs alone. For the president, there was no way to avoid taking a position and no decision that would please, or even appease, all. The presidents describe the episodes on the campuses, explain the decisions they made, and assess their actions retrospectively.
This is the 128th issue of the Jossey-Bass quarterly series New Directions for Higher Education.