By: RANDALL MOSSMAN
How content is Chancellor Terry Allison at IU South Bend? Based on recent comments, the answer has come very much into question.
Earlier this year, Allison was a top finalist to become president of two different universities within a four month period. In May, Allison was one of three finalists to become the president of Southern Oregon University (SOU), according to the Ashland Daily Tidings. Then, in early October, he was also one of three finalists to become president of Central Connecticut State University (CCSU), according to the South Bend Tribune.
Allison visited each university before ultimately not being chosen for either, as he withdrew his name from consideration before each university had made their decision, as reported by the Mail Tribune and the South Bend Tribune.
Issuing a short statement through campus spokesman Ken Baierl, Allison said that he pursued the CCSU position as “a unique career and personal opportunity.” Allison said that he is “glad the selection process is over,” and that he is committed to being chancellor at IUSB. He said he was “not actively seeking another position.”
However, comments made by Allison in the cover letter that he sent to CCSU when applying for the presidential position reveal that he may be unhappy with his current position. In the letter, he said:
“Several factors motivate me to apply for the presidency of Central Connecticut State University. First, CCSU offers the opportunity to work at a larger scale. Second, while I have greatly enjoyed collaboration with my IU regional campus peers and have led the group on several issues, Indiana University has accelerated centralization efforts much beyond the scope communicated when I accepted the chancellor’s position. I look forward to the opportunity to contribute my fullest capacities at a state university with higher expectations about campus-based leadership while still collaborating with community college and peer institutions. Third, I have a network of friends and colleagues who live in the northeast and would welcome an opportunity to leave my current rather isolated position in a less than progressive state.”
There are a few possible inferences that can be drawn from Allison’s comments. First, he seems to be unhappy with the centralization that has occurred at Indiana University. By centralization, he could mean the decisions made by the main campus in Bloomington, which are being imposed on the smaller, regional campuses, such as banded tuition.
Allison may also be uncomfortable with how conservative Indiana is politically.
In the résumé, Allison lauded his efforts towards various liberal causes, such as being part of a committee for LGBTQ leadership in higher education and leading the Achieving Excellence through Diversity Initiative during his time at California State University, San Marcos.
When speaking during a forum at SOU in May, Allison said that he was attracted to the presidential position there because of their diversity and “LGBTQ-friendliest” status, among other things, according to the Ashland Daily Tidings.
Indiana was recently the subject of much national news coverage for its Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), a bill that many criticized as being discriminatory against LGBT Hoosiers.
Worth noting is Allison’s previous job history. Allison has spent the majority of his professional career working in liberal states. From 1991-2010, he worked at two universities in California, a democratic stronghold. From 2010-2013, he worked at Govenors State University in Illinois, a democratic-leaning state. Oregon and Connecticut also lean to the liberal side, while Indiana is conservative. Allison also received all of his college degrees from California.
When approached for comment, Allison’s spokesperson did not provide comments from Allison that would clarify the chancellor’s remarks on IU’s centralization efforts or Indiana’s “less than progressive” politics.
Allison is also known somewhat for his interest in literature, which may have been a factor in his interest at SOU. Earlier this year, he received a nearly $50,000 grant from Indiana University to create a musical play.
While speaking at SOU, Allison said that he could see himself writing musical plays in Ashland, Oregon, the home of SOU. Allison also said that he attended the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland many times. He even wrote a haiku about how he felt at home surrounded by mountains in Ashland, according to the Ashland Daily Tidings.
So what does all of this mean? It’s hard to say, as Allison withdrew his name from consideration shortly before each decision was made.