Tom Scott, Dean
September 11, 2009
Good day and welcome to our college-wide meeting.
I have been working in the Dean’s office for just over a month, and in that time I have come to better understand the scope of our college’s programs and activities. It has been an amazing educational process so far, and the one thing that strikes me is how truly diverse we are from department to department, yet how similarly dedicated in our goals and objectives we are. Clearly, those goals and objectives are quite simple – we all wish to do what is best for the success of our students and programs.
It is very healthy for us all to believe that our students and programs are the best, and we all want the most in resources to be successful for our students. Not a bad challenge for a dean – work with everyone to help all be more successful.
Today, it is my desire to communicate to you, briefly, my professional philosophy for leadership for the college and to express my views on the immediate future of the college as a vital component of Clemson University.
I did not go through a formal interview process for the position of Interim Dean, so many of you may not have a clear idea of my background and experiences and I will begin there.
I am a graduate of both Louisiana State University and the University of Georgia. I spent three years working at Mississippi State University before joining Clemson in 1986. I began as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Poultry Science, which eventually merged with Animal, Dairy and Veterinary Science to become the Department of Animal and Veterinary Sciences. I served briefly as a Department Chair and then as a School Director for four years. I returned to the faculty for the past nine years before accepting this current appointment.
As I considered the position of Interim Dean, I reflected on my philosophy as an administrator and what has shaped my attitude about administrative work. My philosophy for leadership as Interim Dean is based upon my belief in honesty, ethics, accountability, and fairness. So, let me share with you my definitions of each of these.
Honesty – this means I must and will be honest with each of you, and I must be honest with myself. I do not believe in talking around the issues and dodging the need to arrive at a decision for the college. In my experiences, people will much prefer blunt honesty over deceit and subterfuge. Can we all be honest with each other and ourselves? Can we put aside our personal biases of self-preservation and do that which is best for the students and their requirements for future success? Let’s all be courageous and speak with truth. These are challenging times. We need healthy discussion which requires honest assessments of our strengths and weaknesses for making sound decisions about our college.
Ethics or Ethical behavior – we must all be very principled in our interactions with our students and each other. No degree of unacceptable behavior and improper activity will be tolerated. There are rules and policies for a reason – when these are followed, there is little chance for error or mistake. We cannot attempt to bend the rules to fit the situations; we must make the situations adhere to the rules. We owe it to the students to set the best examples of integrity in our behavior inside and outside the classroom. Everything we do is noticed by even the newest freshman student to the larger world outside of Clemson University.
That leads to . . .
Accountability – our adherence to ethical behavior demands that we be accountable. We work and serve in a public arena. The public is watching us at all times. The best way to be accountable is to focus on customer service to the students and the people in this state that look to us for leadership. We have the privilege of working at a University. The most exceptional and stimulating work environment of all. We get to shape and influence young minds with sound and tested information that helps them emerge at commencement as responsible citizens that contribute positively to society. That is our ultimate test of accountability – did we have a major impact on the lives of young people who leave here and participate in making life better for everyone around them each day?
Fairness – I will strive to be fair at all times under all circumstances. Being egalitarian does not work and is unacceptable for highly motivated people. If I attempt to make judgments so that everything is equal, then I will stifle your motivation. Some of you perform better than others and have talents that allow you to attain high levels of achievement. I cannot ignore that fact. With that in mind, it is only reasonable that I will reward those that perform best and will provide them with more resources for greater levels of success. On a fair basis, I will not ignore anyone, but I will have to prioritize the allocation of our limited resources based upon the potential for success in teaching, research and public service. We all understand this system and respond to this practice when we know there is a realistic path to success.
I believe these principles will carry us forward into the future. What is our future? I do not know. This time last year we all believed we had a very bright future until the proverbial rug was pulled out from everyone’s feet. The global economy came as close as it had in 70 years to catastrophic collapse. Prior to this we were all poised for hiring new faculty and staff, and maturing our academic departments into highly competitive programs. Then the sky began to fall. We had to retreat, regroup and respond to some historic financial challenges. We as a college and university preserved our programs but had to make some huge sacrifices for the overall survival of the university and our jobs. We have emerged from that dreadful year wounded, and we are beginning to assess where we stand and plan to go forward. It will not be a quick fix, but we will pull together to help each other deliver our courses and advance our programs.
Just yesterday, we learned that Clemson gave $5 million to the state to help cover current budget shortfalls. This does not bode well for more tangible amounts of operating dollars and the opportunity for new hires. This does require that we rethink how we can come together in a collective manner to deliver the quality educational programs that we are distinctively recognized for offering. As we advance through this academic year, we all need to assist in this effort to “hold the line” and avoid academic meltdown. We must avoid finger pointing and laying blame. Focusing on our strengths will pull us through this phase of financial concern. In doing so, we will emerge on the other end of this journey in good health, if not a bit bruised. We can weather those prospects because we are strong and capable of meeting the challenges, but it is going to require our most positive attitudes and dedication to success. I will work to put the best image forward for CAFLS and encourage you to participate in that effort.
An interim administrator typically occupies the office and does not do much to move the unit forward. That will not be my style as your Interim Dean. We all have too much personally invested in this college, and we are being asked to continue our commitment under financially challenging conditions. We owe it to ourselves and the students to muster our best efforts and deliver the quality programs and provide services that are expected of us. Yes, our financial resources are tight, but when is there ever enough money? I have always believed that everything in life is relative, and we all learn to adjust to the current conditions presented to us. We can all adjust and we can all find ways to formulate strategies for success. Let’s not let our best efforts be stifled by these circumstances. Let’s rise above our financial constraints and determine a path for advancement.
As you progress through this year, have fun. Enjoy each day. Learn to create sunshine in your life. When you do, it will show and positively affect those around you. It’s magical, and those around you will be truly influenced by that positive power. Yes, you can have a profound effect on everyone you encounter each day and in every way you touch the lives of others.
Be courageous. Be wise. Be your best. You deserve great things to happen for you, but more importantly through you.
Thank you for your time and attention. I look forward to an exciting and productive year.