State legislators in upper east Tennessee have taken the unusual step of injecting advise into the governing affairs at East Tennessee State University. Over the decades there has been occasions and opportunities to make opinion contributions to many key decisions affecting the university, but the state legislators where nowhere to be found. Now, they want, unanimously, to have Dick Manahan to be the next president of the school.
Manahan has been around ETSU for a long time and has many personal qualities. While he has been employed at ETSU there has been notable achievements to be sure. You can make a long list. But ETSU has significant deficiencies, and the school has not achieved academic distinctions that may be found in comparison to other schools. I am not comparing ETSU to Princeton. So, it has been a mix while Manahan has been employed in a high position at the university.
Extracurricular activities for under grads and the community has tanked. Intercollegiate sports competes among the lowest level conference for their division. I understand society over-assesses the value of competitive sports, but it does provide under grads an outlet. And, for that reason alone it is important. Most all the schools that ETSU used to be on par with in intercollegiate sports have exceeded them in that area. Some, like Middle Tennessee and most Southern Conference schools, such as Appalachian State have greatly exceeded ETSU. Again, I am ranking ETSU in the variety of benefits of intercollegiate competition to the under grad. I am not comparing swimming tournament trophies The social and economic changes and transitions are phenomenal nowadays. Higher education must keep up. A big problem for all education. And, its not so much a money matter as a knowledge matter. ETSU needs a vision. We cannot tolerate a good ole boy network. Is Manahan prepared to replace old friends of years ? Does he have the contacts with the nation and even world education community to keep ETSU on its feet in the “knowledge” fast track ? Does Manahan know the people that can direct the school to provide the work and livelihood for the next half-century. All changing, rapidly ! How will ETSU provide east Tennessee the guidance in a limited fossil world ? What is the plan ?
Status quo is the enemy. Is Manahan prepared for the enemy ? In many ways ETSU is stagnant. It needs energy and must have vision.
Manahan has served on the Johnson City School Board for many years. While his heart may have been right on some matters in that troubled system, his effectiveness has been suspect. For decades, the JC school system, must be among the most mismanaged and insensitive systems in the state, if not the South. The most notable abuses are in class configuration and capital expenditures. And, many of these abuses occurred during Manahan’s tenure. As an example the Johnson City School System has the numbers for approximately three high school systems. Two for sure and the third at the doorstep. What they have is a monolithic high school that smothers the emotional well-being of students and violates most academic studies available on high school population. The “one high school” concept has become an albatross. Even, some of the most ardent supporters of one high school in yesteryear now recognize it as a mistake. The reasoning has been that once you invest so much capital into a concept it makes economic sense to continue to feed it, as correction would cost even more. So much for faulty reasoning. I don’t remember Manahan lifting a hand or raising a voice to arouse the public to this accumulated madness. Is this what we are to expect as ETSU president ? Will he effectively act on his convictions, or will he roll over ?
The education establishment at ETSU, as the nature of political establishments, need someone they can depend on to not disturb the standard procedures. Many, could well need protection at the very personal level. If Manahan achieves consensus support we can almost know for sure he is the wrong man for the job.
ETSU needs the comfortable to experience discomfort, from their next president.