Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Michael McKinney Retires As Arts & Sciences Dean

From an e-mail send to all Arts & Sciences Chairs, and forwarded to faculty.
After forty rewarding years as your colleague and friend, Department Chair and Dean of the College, I have decided to retire from the University, effective December 31, 2007. It has been my privilege to serve you and the University in these capacities. During my remaining months at the University I will continue to support your teaching and scholarly efforts. You have made the Klingler College of Arts and Sciences a stellar example of how to carry out, with excellence, the educational mission of the University.

Provost Madeline Wake will convene the Department Chairs and faculty of the College to discuss the search process for the next Dean of the College.
McKinney generally gets high marks from Arts & Sciences faculty. He seems to understand what academic excellence means.

We’ve seen that in recruitment efforts in Political Science, where he has gone out of his way to offer salaries, benefits, time off for research and so on to attract scholars whom we wanted to hire. And we have recruited excellent young scholars.

Nobody is perfect, and McKinny has made a few missteps.

The most visible one has been junking the traditional Arts & Sciences graduation ceremony and replacing it with a tedious and boring event.

And he has allowed something called a “Senior Experience” requirement in the Arts College. Sounding like a good idea, it ended up being an unfunded mandate imposed on departments, who responded by arbitrarily designating some courses “senior experience” courses. The courses so designated are perfectly fine courses, but they were perfectly fine courses before anybody came up with the notion of a “senior experience.”

Another source of discontent in the Political Science Department is the fact that the College of Professional Studies has been allowed to offer a course in American Politics under the number POSC 020. Arts & Sciences faculty have taken a dim view of Professional Studies, as Brian Collar correctly reports on GOP3.COM.

The Economics Department successfully rebelled when Professional Studies offered courses with the prefix “ECON” and got that banned. McKinney failed to take up the cudgels for Political Science. Faculty interpret that as his having to “pick his battles” and feeling that the power position of Professional Studies among higher level administrators is too strong.

The hiring of McKinney followed a national search for an Arts & Sciences Dean in 2000-2001. It involved interviewing three candidates from outside the University. McKinney, who was serving as Interim Dean at the time didn’t make the short list of candidates to be interviewed -- an outrageous blunder on the part of the selection committee. When all three outside candidates bombed (we Political Science faculty were instrumental in knocking off one of them, ironically an alum of our own department) the job went to McKinney.

Marquette lucked out big time on that. McKinney, with decades of service to Marquette, has been a vastly better dean than any of the outside candidates would have been, and better than Marquette had any right to expect, given the blundered selection process.

We now face that process again.

The pitfalls are clear. Will we hire an activist who wants to implement whatever academic fad is current? Will we hire some résumé builder who wants to spend a few years at Marquette before moving on to a higher paying and more powerful position elsewhere?

Will we hire somebody too committed to increasing revenue and reducing costs -- neither of which is something that a dean can ignore, but both of which are things that can be obsessed on to the long-run detriment of the institution.

Or will we hire another Michael McKinney?

Given the lack of vision and judgment in higher levels of the Marquette administration, one has to fear that our luck has run out.

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