Faculty perceptions of presidential characteristics and roles at medium-sized, comprehensive higher education institutions in the northeastern United States
Sinsabaugh, Emily F
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The academic presidency in the United States is widely regarded as an increasingly complex role that is defined in as many different ways as there are constituent groups to which presidents must respond and with which presidents must interact effectively. This conflict and the resulting complexity of the role are among the reasons cited for the relatively short tenures (less than seven years) of college and university presidents in the United States. The faculty is cited in the literature as one of the most important groups, second only perhaps to trustees, with which presidents must interact; however, the higher education literature is relatively vacant when it comes to what faculty think about what presidents should be and do. This study addresses a two-part research question: How do faculty rate the importance of a selected list of presidential roles and characteristics? And, do differing ratings reflect the personal and professional characteristics of the faculty? A 21-question, Likert scale questionnaire was sent to 600 randomly selected tenure-track teaching faculty at 6 medium-sized, comprehensive, master's degree-granting institutions in the northeastern United States. Responses from 362 faculty were recorded and analyzed for this study. The characteristics and roles receiving the five highest scores (from highest to lowest) were: having experience as a full-time teaching faculty member in higher education (4.79), having a terminal degree in an academic discipline (4.7), being a skilled communicator (4.65), having faculty leadership experience such as a department chair or dean (4.64), and clearly articulating a planning process for the institution (4.6). In summary, the personal and professional characteristics of faculty do, to some degree, affect their perceptions of the importance of presidential characteristics and roles. This study suggests that gender, academic discipline, experience with administrative roles and, to a lesser degree, tenure status are the best predictors of faculty perceptions of presidential characteristics and roles, while age, race, and rank can slightly affect faculty perceptions in this regard. The least likely predictors of faculty perceptions of presidential characteristics and roles are experience with service on committees and years of service at the current institution or other institutions.