Bye, bye Brand

I believe it is time for Myles Brand to step aside and allow IU to seek new leadership. To lead effectively, University presidents must inspire confidence in those whom they are leading — the faculty, staff, alumni and students. Yet many of IU’s stakeholders no longer have confidence in Brand, creating a leadership vacuum that threatens IU to the core. It is time for Brand to go.

I came to this realization during Thanksgiving Break, when I took time to consider Brand’s behavior and the troubles at IU. It is clear he is no longer an effective leader — he is too bogged down in questions and doubts about IU’s rankings and his performance as president.

Let me make a couple of points right off the bat. First, a university does not need to be ranked one of the top institutions in the country to provide its students a top-notch education; in fact, a top ranking for a university might actually be an indicator the school is too interested in research to adequately educate its undergraduates.

Secondly, Brand’s behavior has been reprehensible, but that does not necessarily mean he’s a bad president. Many of our nation’s greatest leaders have not always conducted themselves in desirable manners — take Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton as examples.

What is at issue here is public dialogue, and it has become mired in these two subjects. Many stakeholders have become fixated on IU’s ranking and have chosen Brand as the target of blame. And Brand’s behavior has been so publicized that it is now something that needs to be discussed.

With respect to IU’s rankings: IU has fallen in the rankings, and it has called into question the quality of education provided to students here in Bloomington. Brand set out to defend Bloomington in an Oct. 2 IDS column entitled, “IU education is far from mediocre.” The headline shows Brand is governing ineffectively, and it shows he’s worried. By stepping aside, Brand can allow IU, which is far more important than any one individual, to gain breathing room from the University’s stakeholders with respect to its rankings and allow the University time to fix the problems that do exist.

And problems do exist.

Now, to Brand’s behavior: It is reprehensible. His series of meetings with trustees before firing Bob Knight were violating the spirit, if not the letter, of Indiana’s open meetings law. By having two “informal,” non-voting meetings in a row with groups of four trustees at a time, a strategy designed to skirt the law, Brand signaled he was willing to bend the rules to suit his agenda.

When Brand put Knight under a “zero-tolerance” policy, I think it was designed to eventually fire Knight. But instead of using the zero-tolerance policy as justification, Brand justified Knight’s firing by saying there was a “series” of incidents violating the spirit and the letter of the contract Knight holds with IU.

This indicates a lack of backbone in Brand’s leadership, because zero tolerance means zero tolerance, with no leniency at all. While I think Knight ought to have been fired in May and not September, zero tolerance meant he ought to have been fired the first time there was an incident, not four months later after multiple incidents, when a freshman went on television to tell his story about encountering Knight at Assembly Hall.

This behavior suggests Brand is incapable of doing his job with the confidence of the University’s faculty, staff, alumni and students, as well as taxpayers. All of them will be constantly questioning his motives and stances. As such, he is handicapped as president.

I won’t forgive him for his behavior. Brand’s presidency is tainted with scandal and slipping rankings, and the best thing for him, and for the University, is a fresh start — under new leadership.

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