If like me, you're disgruntled about Janet Napolitano's appointment as the new President of the University of California system (see here and here), what is particularly galling is that there was an obvious alternative. I speak, of course, of former UCLA law school dean and current University of Chicago law dean Michael Schill. In addition to having two highly successful deanships under his belt, Mike has been a finalist in at least one major University chancellor search. When he was in the running to be head of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the local paper reported that "UW-Madison chancellor finalist Michael Schill [is] known as fast-rising higher ed administrator":
Schill, who was law school dean at the University of California, Los Angeles, for five years before moving to Chicago, was known as the "energizer dean" at UCLA and is considered a fast-rising university administrator.
"Everybody understands he's going to be head of a great university someday," said Douglas Baird, who teaches at the University of Chicago law school and helped choose Schill to be dean. ...
Schill has a reputation as a successful fund raiser. As law school dean at UCLA, he helped bring in $65 million in three years toward a $100 million endowment campaign before being lured to Chicago.
And a Wisconsin faculty blogger opined that there were several reasons to support Schill, including:
2. Schill genuinely likes to talk, and seems to really enjoy listening too. Body language conveys a lot, and Schill's speaks of openness, assertiveness and sincerity. After more than hour of close observation from only a dozen feet away, I can assess this quite well. His reception line went very slowly because he refused to brush anyone off or move them along, despite the efforts of his hosts. He made excellent eye contact, leaned forward when speaking, was evidently comfortable with physical contact (I witnessed several hugs, real handshakes, and he even challenged me to a race), doesn't wear his ego on his sleeve, and displayed a range of emotions. Let's just say, I've seen chancellors smile before but their eyes usually wandered over my shoulder. Schill has a background in activism, and this talent displays it. Of course, I suspect he is shrewd as well-- he knows that people like to be listened to, and he does so to maximum advantage.
3. Voicing strong concern for affordability, Schill told me that we must "keep tuition low, and aid high," restraining ourselves to increases solely to keep up with inflation. He did not speak of competitive pricing, and or peer comparisons. Now, perhaps this is just because he's speaking to me, and he's read the blog. But I checked on this, and what colleagues of his told me is that "He's too smart to think pricing high is smart, and far too smart to believe in 'disruptive' innovation." I asked him for his thoughts on test-optional admissions and he was able to discuss that literature with me, bringing up his teaching on higher education at UCLA in a manner that was quite impressive. In his view, the Supreme Court will rule against Texas in a narrowly tailored decision.
4. Schill is a candidate for chancellor with a very serious and impressive set of publications and books that merit tenure (so is Blank, by the way). He's written on low-income housing, immigration and race, and co-authored with smart people I like and trust, such as Amy Ellen Schwartz of NYU and Colin Chellman of CUNY. I especially liked what I read in Housing and Community Development in New York City: Facing the Future regarding the reasons why efforts to improve low-income housing have failed; he attends to politics and structure in insightful ways. ...
But overall, I am supportive of Michael Schill's candidacy for chancellor. He's bright, calm, thoughtful, and exceedingly well-liked by those who work with him. I'd enjoy getting to know him better.
Indeed. When he was our dean, Mike was a tireless fundraiser and superb administrator. More important, he consistently demonstrated his fealty to academic values such as academic freedom, high quality scholarship, and intellectual diversity. Those are, of course, precisely the values that Napolitano's tenure at DHS convinces me she lacks ... and probably that she doesn't even understand.
We could have had a 24 carat gold choice, but the Regents opted for fools gold.