Going for a Run with Elites

They say if you want to be elite, you must hang and train with elites; however, I am not sure too many runners in the running community have Hillary Clinton, John McCain, and Barrack Obama listed as elite runners. The question of elite is what frequently emerges in various circles. When discussing independent secondary schools or universities, the first thing people want to know is how elite is the school….Or, what makes it elite? I have been involved in a number of conversations regarding the topic of elite”ness” regarding schools. Questions that frequent are: 1) What type of teachers must a school have to be deemed elite? 2) How large is the school’s endowment? 3) How well does the school pay its faculty? 4) How smart are the students? 5) What type of real voice does the faculty have? I think these are valid points in trying to determine the extent to which an institution is either 1st tier or 3rd tier.

While running at the park recently, another runner stated to me that I am pretty good. This runner went on to ask if I am an elite-pro runner. Of course I laughed and said no; but I stated that I am training and aiming to be a sub-elite runner. Thus, the question at times is this: Who determines elite status? In running this question is simple; it is measured according to your times. But when it comes to schools, the extent of making such a determination is a bit more difficult. Unlike athletes, there are schools that see themselves as being far more elite than they really are. At times, such schools fail to operate in a fashion that permits them from reaching a particular level. Harding University, the school for which I did some of my academic work at, fits the bill of making poor decisions. Better yet, 3rd tier decisions. It is no longer a secret that Harding’s current president will be stepping down very soon; I would like to encourage its board to break away from its 3rd tier mentality in promoting from within. As I have asked before, please do not hire a current faculty member. I am sure there are a number of great candidates, but will they offer the type of political and intellectual diversity lacking at Harding?

A colleague who now teaches at a private university, and who finished at HU with me made this comment regarding Harding’s search:

…. even if Harding knows who they want to pick and even if they end up picking them, a national search lends credibility, makes the competition look stiff and legitimate, provides the new leader with a stronger mandate, and might just reveal something or someone they don’t know. Even if they end up picking whom they want to pick, giving alumni, faculty, students and other stakeholders a voice (or even the sham of a voice) yields all sorts of other dividends, making all of those constituents feel more invested and at peace with the process. If none of us know who they are considers, whom they are not, and why on all counts, then the resulting tenure starts more weakly than it should. These are all just practical concerns that should favor a national, public search, in addition to living up to the minimally competent practices of any legitimate institution.


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