EDITOR'S NOTE: Following is Part 5 of a long Q&A with Joshua Wynne, UND's interim president, published in Sunday's print edition of the Herald. Today, the Herald is publishing the Q&A online but in smaller pieces:
Q: Aside from financial concerns, you say 'there were legitimate issues' on campus. What are those concerns?
WYNNE: One of the things on most campuses and also on ours is how decisions are made and how they are communicated. One of the things I have talked to the team about is I think we have been pretty good at spreading the information once decisions are made. (Vice President of Marketing and Communications) Meloney (Linder) and her team have done an excellent job in improving the communication. But there is a critical step before that that I think we can do better, and that’s what we are going to do under my tenure, which is to make sure that before the decision is made, we have broad input and discussion of it and debate of it. I like debate; that’s what universities are about. We debate things to try to discover truth. I don’t run from negative comments -- I run toward them. That’s what a university specializes in: critical thinking and considering the options. If we don’t hear from and consider the comments from people who may have thoughts that differ, we aren’t doing our job. I’m going to really expect that we improve and increase our discussion of important topics and encourage debate. And yes, decisions have to be made, but I would hope people would feel they have been part of the process. It isn’t simply getting them to buy on to whatever the decision was, but for them to have the confidence and the feeling that they actually were involved in the dynamics that led to the decision. … I have found over the years that discussing things around the table, where there is real discussion and honest discussion, invariably leads to a better decision than I could have come up with on my own. … You know the expression, “You don’t know what you don’t know.” When you do this in a more inclusive way, you actually learn what you don’t know and I think then can make better decisions.
Q: And just to clarify, do you think that was a problem going back over the last couple years?
WYNNE: I think all institutions struggle with it. I don’t know that it’s more of a problem here, but I think it’s a way of addressing what may be an issue. I don’t have data to say how important it is. I am extrapolating as to what may be an issue. I think we can do better. Again, I like the idea of encouraging debate and encouraging discussion of difficult topics. That is what a university should do.
Q: This sounds a little bit like we’re talking about President Kennedy. I agree with (not focusing on) the rearview mirror and think you’re right on track with that. But does it pain you a little bit to say that there were maybe some issues that you’re now trying to change or improve?
WYNNE: I don’t know if I would say that it pains me. I inherited the situation on June 16. Cognizant of what has led up to that, I want to try to move things forward. This is not necessarily a criticism. I want to be clear moving forward what my expectations are for the way we interact. It isn’t necessarily a reaction to the past per se, but it’s my style and while I am president I want to both lead by example but also with my team make it clear what I expect. … One of the important things about being interim president is that interim just refers to the amount of time I may be doing it. I intend to act as president. I need to put my approach into play. ... I want to make sure that moving forward we do things in an open and collaborative way. That does not mean that decisions are democratic and that everyone gets a vote. What I am saying is that we have real discussions, especially about tough topics, and that the decisionmaker … has the benefit of a robust discussion leading up to it.