Leadership, Management, and Supervision in Higher Education
Higher education institutions worldwide face an ever-increasing set of challenges to their organizational structure, leadership, and management. With challenges ranging from the need to provide quality education and services, to the pressure of limited financial resources, to an ever-changing group of stakeholders and their demands, university leaders must be vigilant and strategic in their decision-making. Furthermore, their decisions often have a broader impact on their community. In the wake of the heated debate over Confederate statues and memorials on college campuses, it is essential for university leaders to understand how to effectively involve and engage stakeholders when making decisions about such statues (McRoy, 2009). In this essay, we will analyze the situations presented in two case articles involving the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) and the University of Rhode Island (URI), both of which faced the challenge of removing a Confederate statue from their respective campuses. This article explores how two universities, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) and the University of Rhode Island (URI), successfully navigated the challenge of removing a Confederate statue from their respective campuses. The article aims to provide insight into these universities’ leadership, management, and supervision strategies to tackle this challenging and highly charged issue. Through a detailed analysis of the case studies of UNC and URI, this article will examine the various strategies employed by the leadership teams, including the role of public relations, stakeholder management, and communication. Ultimately, this article will demonstrate how higher education institutions can successfully navigate complex and contentious issues through effective leadership and management practices.
Making difficult decisions, which may be unpopular with stakeholders across campus, is one of the jobs that a leader must undertake (Butler, 2014). One of the leaders in the two case studies given confronted the difficulty of sustainability, while the other faced the challenge of retaining a sense of cultural integrity. These two examples show that they handled communication exceptionally differently. The University of Rhode Island’s vice provost collaborated with stakeholders across campus to develop a shared understanding and generate buy-in and financial support for his vision. At the same time, the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill’s new vice chancellor picked with what appeared to be complacency and a lack of openness. Despite his lack of intention to create such an impression, due to his unwillingness to be open about his opinion on the matter of taking down the statue, as well as his silence on what his stance was concerning the issue, his constituency groups felt that he was attempting to keep something hidden (Vasquez, 2020).
When viewing the news or reading a newspaper, it is evident that the issue of Confederate statues is a delicate one for many, if not all, individuals. Both parties to this issue have their perspectives, and an easy answer is not available. Kevin Guskiewicz, the newly appointed vice-chancellor, was asked about his contribution to removing the 8-foot Confederate soldier statue from the University of North Carolina campus (Vasquez, 2020).
At UNC, Chancellor Guskiewicz proposed the “Silent Sam” deal to address the Confederate statue on campus. Under the proposed deal, the statue would be removed and placed off-campus. The deal required the approval of the UNC Board of Governors and the North Carolina Historical Commission. Guskiewicz took the initiative to involve and engage appropriate stakeholders in decision-making (Bauer, 2021). He consulted with the student body, faculty, alumni, the Board of Governors, and the Historical Commission. This enabled him to gain input from various perspectives and opinions and ultimately develop a solution acceptable to all involved parties.
At URI, Vice Provost Peter Gistelinck proposed a similar solution to the University’s Confederate statue. The statue was removed from campus and placed in an off-campus location. However, Gistelinck took a different approach to involving and engaging stakeholders. Rather than consulting with the University’s governing body, he directly engaged the student body, faculty, and alumni. This enabled him to gain input from various perspectives and opinions and ultimately develop a solution acceptable to all involved parties.
One possible option for removing the monument off campus is to move it to a museum. This would allow the University to maintain ownership of the statue while also providing an educational opportunity to visitors. This solution would benefit the University, allowing them to preserve the statue’s history and provide an educational opportunity to visitors (Romo, 2018). It would also allow the University to avoid the potential risks associated with removing the statue from campus.
When making decisions about Confederate statues, it is crucial for university leaders to consider the potential risks associated with their decisions. Removal of the statue could lead to an increase in tensions and conflict on campus, which could potentially lead to violence or vandalism. Additionally, it could lead to a loss of public support for the University, as well as a loss of financial resources. Therefore, university leaders must consider the risks associated with their decisions and develop strategies to mitigate them.
At UNC, newly appointed Vice-Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz faced the challenge of removing a Confederate statue called “Silent Sam” from the campus. Guskiewicz faced numerous challenges in making a decision, mainly due to the University’s financial constraints. A significant risk he faced was the potential loss of student enrollment due to the uncertainty of the statue’s eventual fate. Also of concern was the potential for property damage or personal injury due to protests on and around campus. In making his decision, Guskiewicz consulted with various campus stakeholders, from faculty and administrators to campus legal counsel, student leaders and University police officers.
In the end, he decided to go with a plan wherein the statue would be removed from campus and stored for at least one year. Guskiewicz also decided to allot $2.5 million for increased safety measures, such as additional security personnel for the area around the statue and additional funds for the preservation of the statue (Bates & Masters, 2019). In response to the removal of “Silent Sam”, student enrollment and overall public opinion of the University stayed relatively stable.
At the University of Rhode Island, Vice Provost Peter Gistelinck faced a similar challenge in making the decision to remove a large Confederate statue from campus. In deciding how to proceed, he determined that in order to prioritize the safety and security of the campus community and protect the University’s financial resources, the statue needed to be removed quickly and quietly (White, 2018). As such, Gistelinck decided to enter into a deal with the Robert E. Lee Institute, transferring the statue to their care in exchange for the University’s seven-figure rights to the statue (Marmon, 2019).
Vice Chancellor Guskiewicz and Vice Provost Gistelinck faced a myriad of risks and challenges in deciding to remove the statue from each of their campuses. Their decisions both demonstrate the need for university leaders to understand their institutions’ financial limitations, be pro-active in engaging with a variety of stakeholders, and be able to assess and mitigate potential risks that arise effectively. In both instances, Guskiewicz and Gistelinck opted for solutions that resulted in positive outcomes, demonstrating the value of taking a strategic and comprehensive approach to problems that require higher education leadership and management.
Ultimately, the actions taken by Kevin Guskiewicz and Peter Gistelinck serve as powerful examples of how university leaders must be prepared to make difficult decisions, even in the face of financial constraints and widespread community opposition. The strategies they each applied in evaluating, mitigating, and addressing the risk associated with their decisions is a valuable lessons for other university leaders. Furthermore, the level of stakeholder engagement involved in both cases demonstrates the importance of involving all potential stakeholders in the decision-making process in order to ensure the greatest chance of a successful outcome.
There are distinctions and similarities in the context of leadership, particularly in managing change and conflict in these two institutions. At UNC, Chancellor Guskiewicz took the initiative to involve and engage appropriate stakeholders in the decision-making process. He consulted with the student body, faculty, alumni, the Board of Governors, and the Historical Commission. At URI, Vice Provost Gistelinck took a different approach to involving and engaging stakeholders. Rather than consulting with the University’s governing body, he directly engaged the student body, faculty, and alumni. Both leaders were able to gain input from various perspectives and opinions and ultimately develop a solution acceptable to all involved parties. However, the approaches taken by the two leaders were different in terms of how they involved and engaged stakeholders in the decision-making process.
In conclusion, university leaders must understand how to effectively involve and engage stakeholders when deciding on Confederate statues and memorials on college campuses. Chancellor Guskiewicz and Vice Provost Gistelinck took different approaches to involve and engage stakeholders in the decision-making process. However, both leaders were able to gain input from various perspectives and opinions and ultimately develop a solution acceptable to all involved parties. Overall, both articles demonstrate how effective leadership, management, and supervision can be used to navigate challenging situations in higher education successfully. The articles also highlight the importance of engaging in dialogue with stakeholders and listening to the opinions of the broader campus community. Furthermore, the articles emphasize the need to create a clear framework and strategic plan to guide the decision-making process. Additionally, the university leaders could mitigate the risks associated with the decisions that were made, which was beneficial to both the University and the stakeholders. Therefore, it is essential for university leaders to understand the importance of stakeholder engagement and the potential risks associated with decisions made regarding Confederate statues and memorials.