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Our Opinion: McRobbie's record as president shows he's worth IU's investment

  • Aug. 30, 2016

Editor's note: This story from The Bloomington Herald-Times is being published here as a courtesy for readers of IU in the News.

In the two long stories published in Sunday’s newspaper about Indiana University President Michael A. McRobbie, the quote we found to be the most compelling came from Raymond Cotton, a lawyer who represented IU when McRobbie’s 2007 contract was negotiated but was uninvolved in his most recent contract extension.

“My advice to boards of trustees is the following: The most cost-effective investment is getting the best president they can find. The second responsibility is to retain that person.”

McRobbie, who was characterized in a profile by reporter Michael Reschke as a quiet and introverted man, has pushed loud and aggressive activity by IU. Since becoming president in 2007, McRobbie has laid out a vision for IU and followed it relentlessly, changing course only when the circumstances dictated an alteration was needed. Any changes were to accelerate the pace of change, not slow it down.

The university has moved quickly and steadily in the areas of technology, international programs and relationships, buildings and infrastructure, science and research and fundraising through private philanthropy and academic grants. All the while, academic programs have been reshaped to better reflect the 21st century.

IU has created a Media School and become a Midwest oasis for film studies. The new School of Global and International Studies has put IU in a position to create and share knowledge about issues well beyond U.S. borders. A new informatics building is under construction to prepare students for an era in which information technology blends with multiple disciplines to create economic pathways and opportunities, as well as drive the public good. A new School of Public Health has been born, and 21st century engineering is being taught. More major academic changes are planned, one of which includes a regional academic health campus in Bloomington built in conjunction with a new IU Health Bloomington Hospital.

While aggressive moves in a university setting are sure to cause some discomfort, it’s difficult to pick out areas that have seen significant negative impact. The renowned Jacobs School of Music seems to be thriving, as does the Kelley School of Business. The School of Public and Environmental Affairs is expanding. And on it goes.

The quote from Cotton supports the decision by the IU Board of Trustees to invest in McRobbie’s leadership. Yes, it’s always tempting to look at compensation packages with a sense of wonderment about how they have gotten as lucrative and complex as they have in certain fields. University presidents are in one of those fields. Those considered to be moving their institutions forward effectively and creatively are attractive targets for others, and they’re paid accordingly so others don’t lure them away.

McRobbie has led IU through massive change during challenging economic times and he’s being paid well to do so. As he should be.