Hello, goodbye

Hello, goodbye

Be on guard against job-hopping university administrators.

Trustees at Southern Illinois University are, no doubt, relieved to have completed their search for a replacement to retiring President Glenn Poshard.

But the board's gain of a new president comes as a surprising loss to Youngstown State University in Ohio.

Randy Dunn, SIU's new president, was president of Youngstown State for just seven months before accepting the SIU job. Indeed, when Dunn starts at SIU, he will have served as president of three universities — Murray State in Kentucky, Youngstown State and SIU — since 2006. Throw in his two-year tenure as Illinois school superintendent that began in 2004, and it adds up to four jobs in 10 years.

There's nothing wrong with ambition, but people who take a big job while keeping a sharp eye out for an even bigger job display a character that seems incompatible with such high-level positions.

Dunn defends his decision to go to SIU on the grounds that he didn't apply, that he was solicited by a headhunting firm. He further argued that people at Youngstown State knew that he didn't plan to retire in Ohio, so his leaving should be no surprise.

Those are pathetically weak arguments. Who approached whom is irrelevant. Further, Ohio residents may not have expected Dunn to stay forever, but they certainly were entitled to expect he would stay for more than a few months.

Dunn's job-hopping reflects a disturbing trend in higher education for top-level administrators to stay in one job only as long as it takes to get another one. It's been a common occurrence on the UI campus, one that has bred instability in administrative ranks and that must be considered the next time it's time to fill a major campus post.

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