University presidential exodus is a sign of the great storm ahead in higher education
Presidents at Columbia University, New York University, and Howard University have announced retirement plans, with all three leaders declaring their exits just this week. They join a growing culture of executive leaders in higher education who, with the existential threat of covid more understood and under control, have decided that enough is enough.
They are like most people in the shadows of a global pandemic; taking stock of what matters, counting money that has been hard-earned, and looking ahead at ways their leadership legacies can afford them greater comforts than a life of servitude under a multitude of masters. They also are expert readers of writing on the wall that in most cases is painted in invisible ink; fewer people can afford or want to go to college, politics are more intrusive in the university setting than they’ve ever been, and stakeholder groups are going to be increasingly demanding of the campus as a catalyst for social, economic and political change that it wasn’t designed to deliver.