University of Wyoming President Robert Sternberg talked with the Casper Star-Tribune editorial board on Monday after spending a week very much in the news and on the minds of Wyoming people.
In a frank conversation about his first months at the helm of the university, he revealed plans and actions that shed new light on his time in the job. He also admitted he didn’t expect the strong reactions his changes at the university have produced.
Sternberg felt ambushed when he arrived at a meeting with students and the freshly resigned dean of the College of Law. He said he has been meeting with different colleges and groups of the university, and the law school appearance was arranged as a town hall meeting well before Stephen Easton resigned after announcement of a task force to review the college.
“I didn’t agree to a quasi-judicial meeting,” Sternberg said. And when the dean insisted on what he called a “trial-like format” to decide if the new president had treated the law school ethically, Sternberg considered it inappropriate.
So do we.
We think it was Easton who lost credibility. The dean led an attack that wasn’t seeking answers. It amounted to exactly what he accused Sternberg of doing to the law school — talking instead of listening.
Sternberg agreed to a future meeting with people from the law school, but he also said he wasn’t interested in participating in “a TV reality show.”
Division I sports
As long as Sternberg is UW president, the Cowboys will be an NCAA Division I athletic program. It was a simple and direct promise from the president, who believes that UW sports are important in a state where people drive for hours to see the teams play.
He’s not content with the fall football season, saying that “It’s demoralizing to lose by several touchdowns.”
Teams need “a fierce will to win,” Sternberg said; he doesn’t think that more money alone will make the difference. But he does want the state to pay many sports staff members better. And he wants the university to do a better job of recruiting, including using the state plane when necessary and looking harder within Wyoming.
UW fans should welcome Sternberg’s firm commitment to finding ways to improve the program that is a unifying asset for Wyoming people.
Too much, too fast?
Sternberg argued that he’s gotten a bum rap for firing too many people too fast. He pointed to the fact that he has asked for two resignations: Provost Myron Allen and Dean of Education Kay Persichitte. Others resigned in protest, including Easton and two associate provosts.
He questioned why higher education officials would not want to be evaluated. “Accountability is important,” he said. “We need a culture that welcomes that.”
Instead, some at UW have had what Sternberg described as “an antibody” reaction — attacking a new element in the body. It’s easy to see why he was such a surprise to a campus accustomed to long-term previous administration.
People call it stable leadership, and it was. But Sternberg is seeking ways to improve the university across the board, which is being felt as instability.
We heartily support the belief that accountability is important and we want to see an improved university.
The next time Sternberg comes to a student meeting, it’s our hope that they hear what he is saying and that he is able to bring them into his vision. Looking for areas that can be better is a positive move and Sternberg says it is why he was hired.
He was blunt about what the Board of Trustees expects from him, insisting “I am doing exactly what they hired me to do.”