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University of Missouri President Tim Wolfe is none too pleased about bad advice he received in his first months on the job. The worst advice from his ambitious minions in Columbia was to shut down the existing University of Missouri Press, the 54 year-old academic publishing arm of the state’s premiere public research institution. The scheme backfired with a massive onlilne protest, campus meetings and authors published by the UM Press pulling back their publishing righs, which can cut the income from residuals by hundreds of thousands of dollars.  A former big-business CEO, Wolfe cut his losses and pulled the plug on the plan to shut down the press. In  business, Wolfe was accustomed to delegating duties to highly competent underlings and relying on their advice and recommendations. In Wolfe’s world, triggering such a debacle means a pink slip. One insider at Mizzou says: “The implicit task is not to embarrass the boss by advancing bad ideas.  Wolfe wound up with tank tracks on  his back in the University Press situation, when as a CEO he was acting on what he believed was a well vetted and sound planning. It was a disaster, Wolfe wound up retreating, the academic community distrusts him more than ever and he gained nothing but scars.”  The source goes on to say at least two top administrators making six-figure salaries have targets on their backs for hanging the boss out to dry.


  • UMSLcuria says:

    The president looks like a fool. Someone did not serve him well. Wolfe should start the sacking at the VP level inside University Hall. He could save far more than the UM Press’ $400,000 annual subsidy by closing the superfluous UM System Academic Affairs office.

  • Jon Loomis says:

    It’s a poor general who blames his lieutenants when the battle is lost. Wolfe made the call, he’s the boss, and the responsibility for the UM Press fiasco rests with him. If you’re going to impose a top-down, corporate power structure on a university, then the guy at the top is rightly to blame when things go FUBAR.

  • Peg Nichols says:

    And he wasn’t smart enough to recognize bad advice on his own, from the get-go? Pretty revelatory of his mindset.

  • Stephen Montgomery-Smith says:

    If President Wolfe fires the people who gave him the bad advice, I will consider him absolved from his mistakes.

  • El Tel says:

    Another reason the “business model” does not work at a university–and another reason hiring businessmen instead of academics as administrators is also a bad idea. Repeat after me: A UNIVERSITY IS NOT A CORPORATION. He ought to be fired for thinking so and running it as such.

  • Stephen Montgomery-Smith says:

    To El Tel and others: The problems at UM and MU did not start when Tim Wolfe took the helm. He inherited an already highly dysfunctional management structure. If he fires those who need to be fired, and replaces them with honest people who appreciate and understand the academic enterprise, Wolfe could turn the university around. I agree that the buck stops with him, and I would also agree with those who say that he was slow in realizing the extent of the mistake in closing the Press. But if he finds Chancellors and Vice Presidents who are genuinely good at their job, Wolfe could become one of the best presidents ever.

  • Jennifer says:

    I am guessing one of those with a well-deserved pink slip awaiting should be the UM System VP for Academic Affairs. Tim Wolfe inherited this and as such he had to rely on advice of his VPs. That particular VP has been a spineless retainer for multiple administrations. Rather than giving his boss (Wolfe) good and honest counsel living up to the ideal of his ironically named office of Academic Affairs, the VP saw a chance to cut a deal to enrich his buddy at the Missouri Review with a personal pay bump, hire a crony for double what the fired editor in chief was (under) paid, and throw the dedicated UM Press staff under the bus. Shameful disregard for an important academic mission of a major respected research institution.

  • Otis Blake says:

    Sayre’s Law applies: “Academic politics is the most vicious and bitter form of politics, because the stakes are so low.” In time, the decision to end subsidies to the press will be seen as wise, even though the administration capitulated. Tangible measures indicate the University is as healthy as it has ever been.

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