Nearly one in three presidents of public colleges feels pressured by governor

Poll takes presidents' pulses on climate surveys, governmental pressure

In a new survey, nearly one-third of the presidents of public four-year higher education institutions say they feel pressured by their governors to lead their schools in a direction different than what they believe is best.

Gallup and Inside Higher Ed surveyed 620 presidents and grouped their answers by sector—while maintaining respondents' anonymity. The survey results appear amid a flurry of sensitive topics in higher education, such as an ongoing conversation about the value of climate surveys as a tool to fight sexual assault on campus.

They found that 28% of public presidents find it difficult to balance school direction and governors' opinions. Results were mixed regarding climate surveys.

Governmental pressure

Forty-one percent of public presidents reported feeling pressure from the system office to conduct their presidencies in a specific way.

And overall, 60% of presidents said they feel pressure from the federal government. Among private schools, that figure reached 49%—possibly because of skepticism over the Obama administration's plan for college ratings, according to Inside Higher Ed's Scott Jaschik.

Private, public colleges divided over Obama's new rankings

But even while reporting significant pressure, most presidents said they were not concerned about being removed from office—81% and 86% of public and private leaders, respectively, said they were "not very" or "not at all" worried.

On climate surveys

The poll uncovered mixed attitudes toward using sexual assault climate surveys. Though most college presidents say they support climate surveys generally, they do not seem to be equally keen on actually conducting them, according to the poll.

Critics say developing a national survey would be difficult and may not benefit anyone. But backers of the idea, such as Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri), claim the information would help institutions understand how safe their students feel and how their security and judicial systems are perceived.

Sixty percent of presidents agree that school should use the surveys, but 52% oppose a federal mandate to conduct one.

Only 21% of the presidents said their schools actually conducted such a survey within the last two years, and less than 40% who have not done one are planning to in the next two years (Jaschik, Inside Higher Ed, 10/30).

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