The PD has taken the lead making Case great again - who will follow?

Submitted by Norm Roulet on Fri, 07/07/2006 - 13:22.


Today's Plain Dealer has an editorial about the selection process for the new President of Case University that I find very exciting - partly because it shows great progress with Case, partly because it promotes a concept for the selection process that I initiated on realneo in March, and mostly because I agree completely with the PD position - "Lessons learned? - Case trustees' chairman is making the right moves as the search for a new president gets under way", and I support that "Linsalata also promised to allow the university community - both alumni and those on campus - ample opportunity to provide input on the search this fall."

However, based on the PD wording, I am concerned that Case still doesn't realize the role of the university in the regional community - the university community extends far beyond alumni and those on campus to include all their East Cleveland neighbors, and Hessler Street, and Glenville, and you and me. Whether in their pursuit of being "the world's most powerful learning environment" or just due to inconsistent leadership, Case has never well integrated into NEO - they have demolished historic buildings under cover of night, built starbucked dorms with stark fences and backs to their surrounding neighborhoods, eliminated their Center for Regional Economic Issues and Enterprise Development Incorporated, and they now take over a community garden Hessler residents have nourished for years, to build an eyesore new non-profit leadership training facility, in complete disregard and at times contempt for the community. And these are just random examples.

On the other side of social responsibility and reality, from very real NOLA, on March 4, 2006, I received my alumni bulletin from Hurricane ravaged Tulane, in New Orleans, which offered an unprecedented opportunity for Case to learn from others, and I recommended, on REALNEO, that Case leadership learn from Tulane:

That said, I recommend you look at the Tulane blueprint for the future and consider best practices they have already established there that we can immediately implement here. As a Tulane alumnus who has been watching Tulane deal with their crisis I can say it is the work of genius. Further, we can work with them and the same advisory panel on a higher level of collaborative planning - the collective strength of Case and Tulane working together will offer huge collaborative opportunities and economies of scale that the power and potential will be overwhelming.

Well, Case has implemented one half of my recommendation, bringing Cowen and other great University leaders together to help here. What I don't believe Case leadership realize, yet, is they we are dealing with disaster here, and it is regional, as was so clear to Tulane leaders and advisors in New Orleans.

“Tulane University, now more than ever, is a powerful and positive force as New Orleans and the Gulf Coast region begin the monumental task of recovery,” said Tulane President Scott S. Cowen. “We are determined to find opportunity in the face of adversity. Tulane will do more than just survive; we will thrive and continue our role as a beacon of learning and research for the region and nation, as well as a dynamic engine of growth and change for New Orleans and its citizens.”

Further, the plan advises:

"Tulane will significantly increase its commitment to the growth and development of urban communities by creating The Partnership for the Transformation of Urban Communities."

From Tulane Magazine, discussing The Partnership for the Transformation of Urban Communities:

"It has become clear that the higher education community is the shining jewel in the city right now, and we're going to play a major role in bringing this city back," Cowen says. "As New Orleans goes, so does Tulane, and vice-versa. You can't separate the two."

After Tulane formed a partnership with Dillard, Xavier and Loyola as part of the higher education "village" (see related story), Tulane officials set to work devising ways to make the partnership permanent, not only helping to rebuild the city but to set an example of racial harmony and help shape Tulane's focus on urban communities.

"In the future Tulane will be defined, in part, by its unique relationship with the culturally rich and diverse city of New Orleans, and by the city's recovery from Hurricane Katrina," Cowen says. "Tulane also will be shaped by its relationship with other institutions of higher education in the city."

As part of the university's increased emphasis on urban community-building, Tulane is creating a new program, the Partnership for the Transformation of Urban Communities, that will support educational, outreach and research programs of national and international relevance stemming from the Hurricane Katrina experience.

Tulane, Dillard, Xavier and Loyola will be partners in the program, which Cowen says is the only such partnership in the country. "Our focus will be on transforming and sustaining healthy communities locally, regionally and around the world, but will begin with the city of New Orleans," he says.

The partnership will address such issues as race and poverty, social justice, educational policies and strategies for public school systems, and the physical development of cities.

"It became apparent to everyone after Katrina that New Orleans has serious issues of race and of poverty. That is true of all large urban areas but nobody talks about it," Cowen says. "We're going to talk about it."

The partnership, he says, will benefit all four university partners. "It will ultimately prove a model for other universities to follow."

Well, Case is following. I don't know the board or trustees of Case but as someone who cares about their school and NEO I am grateful they now have access to the right experts. I will ask Cowen to report his impressions of the situation here, being the former Dean of the Case Weatherhead School, and monitor how things proceed with the planning process at Case and explore outcomes deeply. I also strongly recommend Case trustees expand the Presidents' Committee beyond selecting the President and including "those on campus" to recruit a broad group of regional community stakeholders for leading the university and our "village" down right paths in the future.

Case should leverage this moment in NEO's hard times to partner in Tulane's leadership forming the Partnership for the Transformation of Urban Communities by expanding that here, with CSU and other area institutions of learning - we now have available world-class leadership to do that and, as Cowen says, "Our focus will be on transforming and sustaining healthy communities locally, regionally and around the world".

The Cleveland Plain Dealer deserves appreciation for really pushing the trustees of Case to think and act out of the box in the restructuring and future planning of Case university. Increase the pressure across the region. Were it not for the PD, in this Case, the only place one would ever see shared consistent communication of vision for Case is from Lawrence Krauss, the Case professor who initiated the no-confidence vote that removed Hundert as President, and from Evelyn Kiefer, a Ph.D. candidate there, and Assistant to the Director of the Puttnam Sculpture Collection at Case, and a frequent contributor to REALNEO, who deserves much credit as a leading change agent for this community - both should be selected to the Presidents' Committee, for the future!