Inauguration of Eric R. Jensen

Michael Young

Call to Leadership - From the Faculty

Michael B. Young

Robert W. Harrington Endowed Professor of History


Eric Jensen, on behalf of the faculty, it is a great pleasure to welcome you as our 19th president.

We are fortunate that you are willing to serve as our leader in these perilous times.

In preparation for this speech, I read the calls to leadership at the inauguration of Dick Wilson. On that occasion they must have been handing out rose-colored glasses at the entrance to Shirk Center. Or did we really have so little idea what lay ahead of us in 2004? In the years that followed, Dick must have felt a little bit like Job at times. But–like Job–Dick persevered in the face of each adversity, and we are grateful for his tenacity and his decency.

Now the job is yours, Eric, and this time there can be no illusions. These are hard times, and they're likely to get harder. Two weeks ago, faculty and staff learned that, contrary to expectations, next year–again–we will get no pay raises, no further restoration of the reduced contributions to our retirement accounts, and no benefit from the fact that we took on a greater share of the cost of our medical insurance, saving the university about one million dollars.

So I polled the faculty and I asked them, just how angry do you want me to be in this call to leadership?  And the answer, to my surprise, was not angry at all. How can that be? Maybe the people who responded are not a representative sample. Or maybe the faculty are too demoralized and discouraged to even be angry. Or maybe they realize that we're nearly all in the same boat, that 84 percent of Americans have had no increase in income since 2007, and universities all across this nation are struggling to survive.

Or maybe it's because this faculty has a long history of dedication and sacrifice; and we are willing to continue that tradition, for the sake of the university, especially if we are shown a little appreciation.

Most of all, I think today we offer encouragement instead of complaining because we want you to lead. We need you to lead. We have already seen in your first five months on the job that you have the know-how, the vision, and the drive to revive our fortunes. So do lead. Continue the work you have already begun. Make the case to supporters of this university and to the public at large that a liberal arts education is not out-dated. Persuade them that liberally educated students are not just better equipped to lead productive lives but worthwhile lives. On campus, encourage curricular innovation, so that while we preserve what is valuable from the past, we do not fail to adapt to the future. Reallocate our resources in a more rational way, not just by the numbers, mind you, but in proportion as well to what is most critical for our mission. Involve us in making the hard decisions that will be necessary. And make those decisions strategically, not merely opportunistically, as we have done up to this point. Meanwhile, remember your origins as a faculty member and do not lose sight of the human cost as you scrutinize spread sheets. Finally, allow me to end on a personal and historical note. Five hundred years ago, Machiavelli wrote The Prince, a book which is still considered a classic on leadership. Machiavelli famously declared that it is better for a leader to be feared than to be loved. I have worked here under 4 presidents and 2 acting presidents, and from that experience I have learned that Machiavelli was dead wrong. It is far better for a leader to be loved than feared. Bear that in mind, too, as you go about doing all these other important things.

Well, that's a tall order. But you're a tall man. And we are rooting for you to succeed.