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Searching for a president: The listening sessions

Thursday, 7th November 2019

It’s another search for a new president at UCF! The search committee wants to look like it cares what we think, so there will be “listening sessions”.

Pro tip for most administrative academic searches: It is crucial to look like you care, before you go ahead and pick whoever the state legislature or board of trustees really likes. So make sure that everyone believes they have had input. Turn that input into inspiring, management-speak soundbites. Watch out for the words that are starting to show a little wear: “inspiring” might sound like we’re trying to hire a life coach, “innovative” might sound like we’re looking for someone who will just shake things up, whatever that means. So, find better soundbites. They need to be ones that convince the “stakeholders” that their stake is indeed being held (that didn’t come out right…). Perception is everything. And God knows we’ve been terrible lately at perception, so LET’S GET THIS ONE RIGHT PEOPLE!!

Now, here are some questions to ask the candidates:

1. Where would you hide extra unspent money from the annual budget so that the state overlooks it, and we can carry it from one year to the next? Be specific. No, really, we need to know.

2. If you have a choice between investing in a vocational degree program that gives people bachelor’s degrees for things that people used to go to trade school for, and investing in the liberal arts and sciences, would you injure yourself in your haste to sign the check for the vocational program, or would you take your time and convince everyone that the vocational program is the future of education?

3. Blackface – yes or no? Or maybe just a little is ok?

4. Do you have a photogenic spouse, so we can turn the two of you into surrogate parents for the campus? Can we call you by your first names? As if we’re friends, even though, yeah right, as if. It helps if they are all-American names like George and Martha, not something “ethnic” like Indira or Meric or Drew.

5. How do you feel about overthrowing the patriarchy and white supremacy? …Hahahaha, just kidding. Heck, we’ve got an African American woman as provost – we’ve got that stuff covered, amirite?

6. Have you always secretly loved our football team from afar, and now just hope that you have the chance to realize your lifelong dream of being a Knight? It would help. We’re really insecure here and need everyone saying as many nice things about us as possible, because otherwise we might just start thinking that we’re a mid-range, mid-quality education factory that doesn’t really have a lot special about us … what were we saying? Oh, right, football. Go Knights, charge on.

7. Can you please show us your technique for prying money out of the grizzled, gnarly hands of Republican legislators? Will you appeal to their hearts? They have none. To their consciences? Ha. To their civic duty? Uh-uh. To statistics and facts showing the positive effects on society of a strong university? You’re adorable. So, once we’re past all of these arguments, what would yours be?

8. Nazis want to speak on campus. Please demonstrate your advanced rhetorical technique for both allowing this to happen, while at the same time denying that you support them. Bonus points for using academic freedom out of both sides of your mouth.

9. Do you see this position as: a) leader of an academic institution; b) CEO of a corporation that happens to deliver education products to customers; c) chief entrepreneur at a great quirky startup; d) the monarch of a state? Or do you think all of these are the same thing?

10. But enough about us. What do you think of us?

Ok, that should be a good start. Let the games begin.

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