Dean David Ikenberry of the University of Colorado’s Leeds School of Business was recently appointed to a second five-year term, but not before he was harshly criticized in an anonymous faculty survey as part of a review of his tenure. Ikenberry was most pointedly criticized for his treatment of women faculty at Leeds.
Among the most cutting assessments of Ikenberry, one professor wrote that he has “behaved in a manner that is, in my opinion, unethical, and in some instances clearly discriminatory. He has shown repeatedly that he does not fully value the capacity of women at Leeds; in some cases he denigrates women. Although he presents himself as an advocate of diversity, he appears incapable of responding positively when challenged with different views, especially when challenged by women.”
Another wrote: “Dean Ikenberry is an unethical narcissist. I have never heard a positive word spoken about him.” A third added, “His decision-making more and more reflects resume-building efforts to the detriment of the Business School.”
THE DEAN RESPONDS
Ikenberry told Poets&Quants on Friday (July 8) that he takes the criticism seriously and will seek to “engage” his colleagues with better communication. “These are really important issues to me and to this school,” he says. “I really value all of the feedback, both positive and that which is critical and suggesting room for improvement. I think any great leader needs to be open to receiving that feedback in a constructive way and I firmly remain open to that. There are difficult issues raised there.”
However, Ikenberry, who became Leeds’ dean in 2011, adds that many of the comments “strike me as inconsistent with the values that I have, but more importantly the values that we at the school treasure — of an inclusive, supportive environment that really drives learning, productivity, and scholarship at all levels. And some of the feedback suggests to me that we continue to have more work that needs to be done.”
Ikenberry says the cause of the negative assessments is likely that “we’ve gone through a lot of change here,” citing parallels with the leadership of Don Jacobs at Northwestern Kellogg in the 1970s and ’80s and Gilbert Whitaker at Michigan in the ’80s and ’90s, though neither Jacobs nor Whitaker ever dealt with a faculty backlash. If anything, those two deans were among the most admired of their generation. “It was that kind of challenge that brought me here to Boulder five and a half years ago. … That’s all pretext for wanting to come here and try to change, and do it in a very profound way.
“It has met with agreement by many people but it’s also caused stress and outright disagreement with others. It’s pretty clear that I need to keep listening, we all need to keep listening.”
COMMITTEE MAJORITY: DEAN ‘NOT MEETING EXPECTATIONS’
In addition to the negative reviews, five of eight members of a committee assigned to summarize the assessments said they felt Ikenberry was “not meeting expectations” of the job. The committee cited similarly lukewarm reviews in Ikenberry’s third-year assessment in 2014 that also decried the dean’s behavior toward women faculty members, including the admonishment that “the Dean must seriously reflect on his behavior (toward women) and improve his efforts in this direction.”
As the committee added, “There were no items specifically addressing women faculty in the current survey, but there were five comments, four of which were not forwarded to the Dean, that contained the word ‘women.’ All of them were negative.”
According to a report in the Boulder Daily Camera on Tuesday (July 5), 21% of CU’s tenure-track business faculty will be women in 2016-2017, along with 44% of business school staffers.
‘DOWNTRODDEN AND TIRED’ IN AN ‘ENVIRONMENT OF FEAR’
Among the other complaints lodged against Ikenberry, he was accused of fostering an “environment of fear” among the Leeds faculty. “Individuals who have disagreed with him have been shipped out,” one reviewer wrote, “causing most people to simply tell him what they think he wants to hear, rather than end up in his crosshairs.”
Another added that “the culture around Business School is very downtrodden and tired,” and while Ikenberry has “accomplished some great things,” those accomplishments have been “on a house of cards through high pressure and unrealistic expectations. Short-term and not sustainable.”
However, University of Colorado Provost Russell Moore, Ikenberry’s supervisor, defended reappointing the dean, telling Poets&Quants on Friday (July 8) that he is “not terribly concerned about some of the allegations of his treatment of women.”
Moore says the anonymous reviews are “just one of many pieces of information” he uses in his reappointment decisions, adding that they run counter to feedback he received about the dean from other sources. “I met with three groups of faculty and staff for a whole afternoon,” he says, “and in every one of those meetings people said he has had some very positive results, and some people went as far as to say that he’s the best dean we’ve had in 25 years.”