Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Alaska's Military-Educational Complex - Gen. Tom Case To Be New UAA Chancellor

The Nitty Gritty:  The University of Alaska system has a state wide President and three campus Chancellors - in Juneau (UAS), Fairbanks (UAF), and Anchorage(UAA.)  When Tom Case becomes Chancellor at UAA, two of the top four academic leaders in the University system will be former Air Force generals.  None of the four academic leaders will have a doctorate.  While there is room for non-traditional appointments in any system, I find it severely troubling that we either cannot attract or aren't interested in having some leaders with first rate academic qualifications in our highest academic institutions.  Like, how about a general with a doctorate at least?

[UPDATE Feb 5:  There's a follow-up post on the Faculty Senate meeting where this appointment was discussed.]

Tom Case Selected as Chancellor

The University of Alaska Anchorage website announced President (former Gen) Gamble's choice of (former Gen) Tom Case as new UAA Chancellor   January 31, 2011:
University of Alaska President Pat Gamble today announced that Tom Case, the former dean of the University of Alaska Anchorage College of Business and Public Policy, will succeed Fran Ulmer as UAA Chancellor.

Case is currently the president and chief operating officer for the Alaska Aerospace Corp. headquartered in Anchorage. He’ll resign from that position to take the top leadership position at UAA. . .
“Tom is the right person for this big job,” Gamble said. “I received valuable input on Fran’s replacement from a diverse group of UAA stakeholders, elected and community leaders, the Board of Regents, and others.  Many people advised me that a costly and lengthy national search wasn’t necessary because we have excellent talent right here in Alaska. They were exactly right. Fran has been a true champion of our students, higher education and of UAA in particular, and I believe Tom clearly has the leadership experience and academic credentials to continue Fran’s good work.”
OK now.  President Pat Gamble came to the University last spring from the Alaska Railroad and before that  from the Air Force where he retired as a four-star general and as commander of U.S. air forces in the Pacific region.

Now Tom Case comes to UAA from being COO of the Alaska Aerospace Corporation, and from being Dean of the UAA College of Business and Public Policy, and from being deputy commander in chief of Central Command and Pacific Command.

Before Pat Gamble was President, Army General Mark Hamilton had been President of the University of Alaska.  

I haven't been paying close attention to the selection of the Chancellor.  But it appears from President Gamble's words, there was no serious search for a new Chancellor.  
“I received valuable input on Fran’s replacement from a diverse group of UAA stakeholders, elected and community leaders, the Board of Regents, and others.  Many people advised me that a costly and lengthy national search wasn’t necessary because we have excellent talent right here in Alaska. They were exactly right. Fran has been a true champion of our students, higher education and of UAA in particular, and I believe Tom clearly has the leadership experience and academic credentials to continue Fran’s good work.”


As some readers here know, I'm a retired UAA professor.  Tom Case was my dean for four years.  Before that I'd had contact with him in my role as chair of the Public Administration program and his role as head of Elmendorf Air Force base.  I like Tom Case a lot.  He's a decent, honest, public spirited, and fair person.  I would trust his word absolutely.


Tom Case was originally appointed Dean of the College of Business and Public Affairs without a more formal search process.  At this point I don't remember the exact details, but I recall it was an interim appointment and then later the faculty agreed that he should stay on.

Fran Ulmer had been Mayor of Juneau, a legislator from Juneau, Lt. Gov. of Alaska, and ran for Gov.  After that she had an appointment at Harvard as a visiting professor in something like Environmental Policy, was a guest faculty at UAA, and then was appointed director of the Institute for Social and Economic Research.  She too was appointed without a search committee to be interim Chancellor and then about a year later if I recall correctly, was appointed as permanent Chancellor.  She's recently served as one of President Obama's BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling Commissioners.


Faculty at the University of Alaska Anchorage are expected to do, and are evaluated on, three main functions:  Teaching, Research, and Service.  Universities have traditionally been seen as academic institutions where positions require academic training, usually what is called a 'terminal' degree.  That means the highest academic degree in one's field, usually a PhD, but for law, a JD is considered a terminal degree.

Community Colleges are able to get good leaders with PhD's.  The University of Alaska System's top four academic leadership positions will soon include no one with a terminal degree.


It wouldn't make sense to simply rule out anyone without a PhD as University President or Chancellor.   A PhD is not and should not always be the requirement.  There are people with unique experience that makes them qualified despite not having a degree.  I taught public administration and I believe that general management/administrative skills are transferable from one area to another.  But one needs to understand the functions of the organization - in this case teaching, research, and service - to be able to lead the people who do the work and to represent them well outside of the organization. 

In Mark Hamilton's case, as President he very skillfully lobbied the legislature for funding increases after a string of years of budget declines.  As a faculty grievance representative, I personally found President Hamilton approachable and receptive.  Several times I wrote him lengthy emails and he responded quickly, thoughtfully, and in detail.  And there were several grievances that we won only at his level. (It was a bit strange though since the statewide attorney wrote the Chancellor's response at the campus level.)

As my Dean, Tom Case was exceptionally careful not to violate academic culture.  Sometimes this led to him not being as forceful as I thought he should have been because he wasn't sure enough about what was appropriate and didn't want to impose military standards.  He did get the opportunity to teach some classes - I believe he co-taught with a faculty member so he didn't have complete responsibility for the management of the class.  His strongest asset for the college was his connections and respect off campus.  Again, he would have been stronger had he better understood the roles of the faculty in teaching, research, and service so he could have made his pitch for funding more effectively and he could have better understood the quality of proposals and their likelihood for success.  He was also somewhat at a disadvantage dealing with national academic issues such as accreditation.  But he's a bright, decent, and hardworking man and I know his time as Dean will serve him well as Chancellor.  He had to sit in at countless meetings with other deans so he should have a reasonable reading of the issues of other colleges. 


Clearly, no one at the University could move laterally into a high level military positions as military retirees are able to do.  People are expected to move up through the ranks because that way they can understand the needs of their workforce.  It seems strange that people from such closed systems see no problem when they go into totally different systems.  (Though in the US, they do have civilian leadership in the Department of Defense and White House.)

The military is an institution in which people are constantly undergoing training and education and people who make it to the rank of general have to be very good.  But 'good' for becoming a general doesn't automatically transfer outside of the military culture - especially to the much more egalitarian and independent culture of a university.  In the military there is a very strict hierarchy and obedience to orders from superiors is the underlying rule.  Universities are structured around collegial governance.  Even if one understands that abstractly, understanding such a different culture is not easy.  The way you get faculty attention is much different from how you get military attention. 

A concern that I have is NOT that an occasional general gains a top leadership position at the University of Alaska.  But the University has now had two generals in a row as President of the Statewide system and soon a third general heading the largest campus of the university as well. 


I recently posted about a report that says Universities are not teaching students how to think.  I noted in that post that I wanted to do another post on the obstacles faculty face these days trying to teach logic, reasoning, and critical thinking.  That post is still coming up.  Here's a preview of my thoughts:   The basic management logic of efficiencies of scale has led many legislators to conclude that teaching classes of a 100 would be more efficient if you doubled the class size.  The same with graduate classes.  That would work if classes consisted only of one-way information flows and computer graded exams.  But it doesn't work if classes are interactive and students actually write papers that faculty read carefully and comment on extensively.  The emphasis on efficiency is one of the reasons that critical thinking isn't getting taught.  Faculty simply don't have time for the important personal work as class size increases.  And at UAA, with one fledgling doctoral program, it's hard to have real teaching assistants who can do some of the teaching in smaller sections. 

There are many changes that have come to higher education over the last 30 years and the next 30 years will probably be even more challenging.  Technology offers lots of opportunities  to transform how we teach.  Computers can be used to teach many skills.  Applying computer gaming technology to curriculum could make memorization of terms and rote skills much more interesting for students and free faculty to concentrate more on teaching that requires human interaction.   But much of what I've seen come to the University in my time was either driven by people trying to cut costs or trying to sell technology, without seriously getting into the pedagogy.  There are some real exceptions.  Programs like Blackboard, as elementary as they may be, have greatly increased student-student and student-faculty communication for teachers who could take full advantage.  But some distance education systems crank up the student-teacher ratio and there is an incentive for both students and teachers to dumb down the curriculum so both can survive.  But this is all for another post.

Yes, I think that university faculty are often living in a different world from other people.  This isn't a bad thing.  They're supposed to have time to educate (not train) the people who will be in charge in the future.  They're also supposed to think about what we are doing without being caught up in it all.  A little fresh blood now and then is a good idea.  But there is a reason most organizations hire people at the top who know their field, and having less than the academically best in all four top positions is not where a first class university should be.  


Ultimately, the Board of Regents have to approve the major policy decisions at the University.  Regents are appointed to eight year terms.  In recent years, we are seeing regents who are not serving out those terms.  Below is a list of the last 19 regents from the Regents website.  Current regents are in blue and you can link to their bios.

Sean ParnellSean Parnell
         Mary K. Hughes*          2002-2009                  Tony Knowles             
Byron I. Mallot 2002-2003 Tony Knowles
Derek Miller 2002-2003 Tony Knowles
Michael Snowden 2002-2009 Tony Knowles
Cynthia Henry* 2003-2011 Frank Murkowski
James C. Hayes** 2003-2007 Frank Murkowski
David J. Parks** 2003-2005 Frank Murkowski
Jeffery B. Staser 2005 Frank Murkowski
Robert Martin* 2005-2013 Frank Murkowski
Carl Marrs* 2005-2013 Frank Murkowski
Timothy Brady* 2005-20007
Frank Murkowski
Sarah Palin
Jacob Gondek** 2005-2007 Frank Murkowski
Cowell Fuller* 2007-2015 Sarah Palin
Patricia Jacobson* 2007-2015 Sarah Palin
Kirk Wickersham* 2007-2015 Sarah Palin
Erik Drygas* 2007-2011 Sarah Palin
William Andrews** 2003-2009 Sarah Palin
Kenneth J. Fisher* 2009-2017 Sarah Palin
Ashton Compton*  ** 2009-2011 Sarah Palin
Jyotsna Heckman*  *** 2011-2019

Michael Powers*  *** 2011-2019
*Currently Regent **Student Regent***Appointed after
Chancellor approved
[UPDATE Feb. 12, 2011 - I've added the two Regents who were appointed after the new chancellor was approved.  They seem to have replaced Henry and Drygas.]

Below is a list of the kinds of academic degrees the Regents have.

BS Engineering - 3
BA/BBA - Marketing, Management - 2 
Law - 2
BA Education/MA Education - 2/2  (one has both)
MA unspecified - 1
Can't find - 1
Current student - 1
[UPDATE Feb. 12, 2011 - new Regent Heckman has BA and MBA, new Regent Powers has a BA in English Literature and MA in Health Services Administration]

As you can see, this is a bit unrepresentative both in terms of disciplines (all are in professional fields) and in level of degrees.  Although the bulk of the service delivery employees (the faculty) have doctorates, I can identify no one on the Board of Regents who has a doctorate, nor does the President of the University, nor will the new Chancellor at UAA.  Nor the other two campus Chancellors.

Our regents may feel they are dedicated to higher education, but their backgrounds are troubling.  Individually, each one. if combined in a more representative group, would be fine.  But collectively they don't show me the depth and breadth of experience needed to understand the institution they are running and what this state's university system will need to stay competitive in the future.

It's time for the faculty and students and residents of Alaska to lobby heavily for the next Chancellor hired to be one sharp academic who knows the academic universe and has great contacts around the US.  And for legislators to demand more academically diverse and experienced regents from the governor.

Maybe back in the 80's when the Board of Regents merged the Community College system into the University and got rid of Anchorage Community College, they should have, instead, merged the university and into a statewide community college system. 


Tom Case is an honorable man whom I personally respect greatly.  I know he will do his best to make UAA as good as it can be.  But this is an academic institution.  Having two of the four top leadership positions held my ex-Air Force generals is not exactly the kind of diversity we need.  Having ALL four top positions at the university held by people without terminal degrees is not the kind of diversity we need.  Having four white males over 60 in our four top leadership positions isn't the kind of diversity we need.  Again, I'm not faulting any one individual, but this group collectively doesn't represent the broad academic excellence a university system like ours needs.

I'm not calling for symbolic diversity.  I'm calling for diversity because people with different backgrounds and professional and academic experience will see things that this team won't see.  Women will see things these men won't see.  A non-white academic will see things these four won't see.  Having one air force general at an academic institution adds a unique perspective.  But what does the second one add? 

That President Gamble didn't recognize that adding Case to this team might NOT add the qualifications and experience missing from the existing team is part of the problem.  That the Board of Regents didn't recognize it is part of the problem.

And it looks like if the faculty, students, and citizens of Alaska don't do anything, there's no reason to expect things to change at the next vacancy. 

❉The UAS Chancellor bio  doesn't mention academic degrees.  I got this degree information from Pugh's VITA  last spring when he was a candidate for University President and the old link no longer works, but this is from my download of it:

John Robert Pugh
University of Alaska Southeast 
11120 Glacier Highway Juneau, Alaska 99801 
(907) 796-6272

Graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a Masters of Science in Social Work, 1970
Graduated from Baylor University with a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy, 1967
Academy of Certified Social Workers, 1975-Present


  1. Thanks for this, Steve. I'm going to forward it to my colleagues and co-workers at UAA.

  2. The new leadership in the UA system represents a critical mass of people vested in the military-industrial complex. Thanks for the fair coverage.

    "A vital element in keeping the peace is our military establishment. Our arms must be mighty, ready for instant action, so that no potential aggressor may be tempted to risk his own destruction...
    This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence — economic, political, even spiritual — is felt in every city, every statehouse, every office of the federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society. In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals so that security and liberty may prosper together." (Eisenhower, 1961)

  3. By unanimous vote, the faculty senate did send a memo to President Gamble that if there is a direct hire it should be Provost Driscoll. Otherwise, a national search should take place. Seems like it will require more political pressure to make a change.

  4. "By unanimous vote, the faculty senate did send a memo to President Gamble that if there is a direct hire it should be Provost Driscoll. Otherwise, a national search should take place. Seems like it will require more political pressure to make a change."

    That's what I heard too. Seems to me a mistake: "We're OK with no search as long as you pick our preferred candidate". Now the faculty senate has no leg to stand on regarding the way it was done...

  5. When I was a UAS student, I served on a search committee for UAS Chancellor, which at the time was a newly created position. I argued at the time against a requirement of a doctorate, which excluded many local candidates who I felt would make excellent Chancellors.

    The committee kept the doctorate requirement, and UAS was subjected to 6 or 7 Chancellors over a dozen years that had relatively recent doctorates, and who were simply using the UAS chancellorship as another addition to their resume as they climbed the academic latter.

    None of them really had the interests of UAS at heart, and much turmoil and turnover resulted, at the expense of stability in programs and the loss of some excellent faculty who wouldn't kiss the asses of the resume-climber Chancellors (one of them has written 3 NY Times best sellers on math, science & history of science, authored 2 textbooks and 25 peer reviewed journal articles during his 3 years here, and now occupies an endowed chair at Harvard).

    It wasn't until Marshall Lind became Chancellor that the turmoil ended. John Pugh, who had been a Dean, was selected as his replacement. I think that Pugh has been a reasonably good Chancellor, but I also believe that the Chancellors and the President of the University are all extremely overpaid, and that UA has far too many administrators.

    IMHO we should replace about 60% of a administrative positions at UA with actual teaching staff. The over-administration that runs rampant at UA is robbing resources from actual instruction.

    That's why I ignore all the alumni donation appeals. I'll be leaving a bequest with the Juneau Community Foundation to endow a scholarship at UAS that keeps UA administrators out of the loop.

    HarpboyAK, BBA, UAS '91

  6. Excellent post. FYI--James Hayes, David Parks, Jacob Gondek, and William Andrews were all student Regents. Student Regents are only appointed to two year terms.

  7. Thanks to all for your comments. Anon Feb 4, I've modified the chart to reflect your comments. Thanks. I went to the UAA Faculty Senate today and will post on that by tomorrow.


Comments will be reviewed, not for content (except ads), but for style. Comments with personal insults, rambling tirades, and significant repetition will be deleted. Ads disguised as comments, unless closely related to the post and of value to readers (my call) will be deleted. Click here to learn to put links in your comment.