Should Penn’s problems force a rethink of university leadership?

Should Penn’s problems force a rethink of university leadership?

After weeks of criticism from alumni, donors and public officials, and disastrous testimony on Capitol Hill, Liz Magill resigned Saturday as president of the University of Pennsylvania over her stance on fighting anti-Semitism. Meanwhile, the heads of Harvard and MIT remain under pressure, and some of their fiercest critics continue to call on them to resign as well.

This has sparked a broader debate about how American universities are run and raised the question: Should these institutions look outside academia for their top leaders?

A summary: Magill resigned – followed shortly after by Scott Bok, president of Penn’s board of trustees – days after giving evasive and legalistic answers to lawmakers about whether students who advocate the genocide of Jews should be disciplined. Claudine Gay, president of Harvard, faces similar pressure from alumni, including the Financier Bill Ackman., although he also obtained the support of the teachers; The Harvard Corporation, a board of directors that could oust her, will meet Monday.

Modern universities may require different types of leadership. Traditionally, college presidents have been veteran academics or school administrators: 83 percent of those leaders had a doctorate, while only 1.4 percent had an MBA, according to the American Council on Education.

But colleges and universities are now multibillion-dollar enterprises: Harvard’s endowment is $50 billion and Penn’s is $21 billion. Their presidents report to boards of directors that are often made up of prominent business executives and frequently must raise money from corporate leaders. They are also increasingly expected to skillfully navigate a politically charged environment.

Some institutions have done well with presidents from outside academia. Barry Mills (who, to be fair, has a PhD in biology) went from being a partner at the law firm Debevoise & Plimpton to serving as the highly regarded president of Bowdoin College for 14 years.

Politicians have also been hailed for their role. Examples include mitch danielsthe former Republican governor of Indiana who froze tuition rates for seven consecutive years as president of Purdue University, and John Brademas, a Democratic legislator from Indiana who helped transform New York University into a world power.

But such a measure can provoke a violent reaction, especially from veteran teachers who highly value an independent academy. (Coming from business doesn’t guarantee success either: Simon Newman, a former financier, resigned as president of a Maryland university after allegedly comparing struggling freshmen to bunnies who should be drowned or shot.)

Charlie Eaton, author of “Bankers in the Ivory Tower,” said academically trained leaders could protect schools from outside pressure. “There’s already a lot of tendency to do what donors would want the university to do,” he told DealBook. “You need presidents who are academics to keep the university anchored in that project.”

Saudi Arabia is blocking efforts to limit the use of fossil fuels. The kingdom is rejecting talks at the COP28 climate summit to call for phasing out hydrocarbons to stop global warming, The Times reports. Previous climate agreements have avoided mentioning fossil fuels, but the dynamic has changed this year, which has been the hottest on record.

Cigna withdraws from merger talks with Humana. the insurer abandoned efforts to create a $140 billion giant after shareholders reportedly reacted coolly to the proposed deal and the two sides failed to agree on a price. Instead, Cigna will focus on smaller acquisitions and share buybacks.

Tucker Carlson is said to be starting his own streaming service. The former Fox News host will launch the Red Tucker Carlson with content including interviews, short videos and monologues, according to The Wall Street Journal. He will continue to post free content on X, where he began streaming in the spring. Separately, Elon Musk said conspiracy theorist Alex Jones would be allowed to return to X, five years after he was banned from the platform.

Donald Trump abruptly changes course on testifying at his civil fraud trial in Manhattan. The former president announced on Truth Social on Sunday that he would not return to the witness stand on Monday. Trump was expected to continue defending himself against accusations that he had fraudulently inflated his net worth.

Shari Redstone, the mogul who runs Paramount Global’s parent company, is finally considering a deal for her ailing media empire as she holds talks to sell control to entertainment company Skydance. (Paramount shares are up 12 percent since Puck first reported on the talks. last week.)

But the bigger question is not just whether Redstone will sell or at what valuation. It’s what kind of agreements would come. after such a sale, as the media industry prepares for a wave of transformative mergers and acquisitions, writes DealBook’s Michael de la Merced.

Redstone has been under pressure to reach a deal for some time. National Amusements, which his family has run for decades, has already negotiated with creditors over his heavy debt load and took a investment by BDT and MSD Partners with a view to a sale of some kind. (BDT & MSD is advising Redstone now).

The fundamental problem is that Paramount, which runs its eponymous studio and television networks such as CBS and MTV, considers itself too small to succeed. While it has valuable properties like the “Mission: Impossible” franchise, it has far less money and content to compete in the loss-making streaming wars against the likes of Netflix, Disney and Comcast’s NBCUniversal.

Skydance may only be interested in parts of Paramount Global, mainly his legendary Hollywood studio. Skydance, which is backed by media investment firm RedBird Capital Partners, is already a partner with Paramount on the “Mission: Impossible” films.

This raises questions about who could buy the television networks, which have been hit by falling advertising sales and “cord cutting” by viewers, but still generate significant fees from cable providers who those channels broadcast. Private equity firms willing to take advantage of those declining revenues, perhaps including RedBird, could be the answer.

More consolidation is coming, but who will buy? Even an enlarged Skydance-Paramount wouldn’t have the scale of Netflix or Disney, suggesting it might need to be sold. again.

But U.S. antitrust regulators remain wary of consolidation, which could limit the ability of, say, Comcast to buy another major studio. (That would probably extend to tech giants like Apple or Amazon, too.) Perhaps a merger with Warner Bros. Discovery could work, although that company also faces a huge debt load, and such a deal could still face tough scrutiny in Washington.

All of which is to say that even if Redstone sells, its buyer would face many of the same headaches.

A philosophical divide within the artificial intelligence sector came to light last month after Sam Altman’s brief ouster from OpenAI. While the board members who fired him believe technology could lead to the downfall of humanity, encapsulated in one school of thought known as Effective Altruism, another is increasingly coming to the fore.

Effective accelerationism (or “e/acc” to its followers) posits that AI should advance as quickly as possible, without safety barriers that could limit its progress. Times technology columnist Kevin Roose explores his rise (and why some in Washington are worried about it):

The battle between e/accs and Effective Altruists is one of many quasi-religious schisms erupting in San Francisco’s AI scene these days, as insiders argue over how quickly the technology is progressing and what should be done about it. regard.

E/acc prefers the all gas, no brakes approach. Their followers favor open source AI software rather than it being controlled by large corporations, and unlike effective altruists, they do not see powerful AI as something to be feared or protected against. They believe that the benefits of AI far outweigh its harms, and that the right thing to do with such an important technology is to get out of the way and let it explode.

Some of those principles have been adopted by Silicon Valley luminaries like investors Marc Andreessen and Gerry Tan and by seven-month-old Mistral, a French startup that just raised $415 million at a $2 billion valuation.

– Jeremy Allaire, CEO of crypto company Circle, on the power vacuum at the top of the crypto industry following the conviction of FTX’s Sam Bankman-Fried and the guilty plea of ​​Binance’s Changpeng Zhao.

Central banks, including the Federal Reserve, and inflation data will be the focus this week. This is what you should look at.

Tomorrow: The Commerce Department will release its consumer price index report for November. Economists have predicted that general inflation will reach 3.1 percent, one point less than in October. But they don’t expect such an improvement with core inflation, which excludes food and energy prices.

Wednesday: Is Fed Decision Day. The central bank is widely expected to remain firm on interest rates. But after last week’s interesting jobs report, close attention will be paid to what Federal Reserve Chairman Jay Powell has to say about what might happen to rates next year, as well as the health of the economy. economy.

On the other hand, Adobe and Inditex, the parent company of the Spanish clothing chain Zara, will report their quarterly results.

Thursday: It is the turn of the European Central Bank and the Bank of England; Both central banks are expected to maintain their interest rates.

In the US, retail sales data will provide an update on the strength of consumer spending.



  • The Biden administration will award BAE Systems, the British defense contractor, the first federal grant under the CHIPS and Science Act to boost domestic semiconductor manufacturing. (NY)

  • Big donors, including Shonda Rhimes and Steven Spielberg, attended President Biden’s fundraising trip to Hollywood over the weekend. (NY)

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