According to last Saturday's State Journal story "New head seeking change in hiring," John Behling, the new leader of the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents, wants to encourage the hiring of academic administrators who have non-academic backgrounds.

Given the high status and high salaries of many of these positions, the new preferred hiring pool would likely be heads of major corporations, who would expect CEO-type salaries when they become provosts and chancellors.

This is a dangerous path.

Over the last few decades universities have already started to become corporations, through branding and big-time athletics. This new emphasis would accelerate the shift from academic universities to Universities, Inc.

The business model simply does not work in universities. The bottom line of business is: the bottom line. To maximize profits, costs need to be cut and the product needs to be advertised, regardless of its intrinsic merits. Efficiency is the sacred cow of corporations.

Education, however, is often frustratingly inefficient. Teaching writing, for example, is labor intensive, with hours and hours of grading and student conferences. The same is true in many other disciplines. The maximally efficient university is the for-profit, online university, with a few professors overseeing -- not teaching -- thousands of students.

Universities need leaders who are educators, not CEOs.

Andrea Thalasinos, Madison

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