Ask Greg: President Crawford answers your questions

Greg Crawford

President Greg Crawford

Q: There has been a display and a speaker on campus last semester that many people found upsetting and offensive. Why does Miami allow such things?

A: As a public university, Miami honors the First Amendment right to free speech, and our core values dictate that we protect the rights of our students, staff, faculty, and visitors to hold and express disparate beliefs. And yes, that includes even speech or displays, or guest lecturers or movies or other events, that some may find offensive. The university does not formally approve or disapprove of speakers who are invited to appear by any student organization that follows the established protocol. See rules online

We also do not regulate displays that may appear based on content or subject matter, as long as rules are followed. For example, people have expressed concerns over the installment on Central Quad called “The Cemetery of the Innocents” sponsored by Students for Life of America-Miami Chapter. The students who wrote objected to the display and some called for the university to remove it. That display was in conformity with Miami’s rules for this type of event. (See policies on Event Scheduling, Use of University Buildings and Facilities, Rights of Expression of Students and Signs, Posters and Banners in the Student Handbook.

With a student body of more than 17,000 undergraduates and at least 400 registered student organizations, every person at Miami is likely to hear or see something with which they disagree. In fact, protests, lectures, or displays that are controversial should generate conversations that deepen our understanding of and commitment to freedom of expression and ideas we most value. 

What Miami does not tolerate is harassment or threats directed at anyone in our community.

On Wednesday, Feb. 1, there will be a special program: Free Speech and the Path to a More Perfect Union, from 5-7 p.m. in the Shriver Center Dolibois Rooms. Dr. Patrick Haney, chair of the department of political science, and Dr. Michael Curme, dean of students, will facilitate the session, which will include our own faculty experts. All faculty, staff, and students are invited to attend and participate in the discussion. We hope everyone will make time to attend.

Q: Many employees look at salaries as a representation of how much value they have to their employer. So what does giving a Miami employee a "good salary" or wage mean to you?

A: Every employee at Miami is valued.  We must have competitive salaries and benefits to attract and retain accomplished faculty scholars and teachers, and dedicated and devoted staff. It is our people who create the amazing and welcoming environment at Miami for our students.  

Salary is only one component of the compensation provided to people in an organization. We work hard to be competitive not only with salaries but also with retirement, healthcare, and tuition benefits. We also strive to have generous leave policies for our faculty and staff. As an organization, the intangibles such as how we show appreciation for our employees are also important.  At Miami, we provide different types of awards and recognitions, departmentally and overall.   

As a new president, I’m working hard to understand our salary structure across the board as well as how we compare to our peers with respect to salaries, benefits, and living costs. We solicit input from faculty and staff through surveys and other data on a regular basis, and plan to do more in the future. It helps to know how people at Miami feel about their environment, and whether they feel valued and appreciated.  

We plan to continue to use such data and feedback to establish a baseline for future improvement. For example, Provost Phyllis Callahan has appointed an advisory committee to review faculty salaries, and David Creamer, senior vice president for finance and business services, has appointed a wage committee to review classified staff wages.  There certainly will be discussion in the coming months as we look more closely at how Miami can continue to improve. 

Q: How will you use your servant leadership through tumultuous times in the coming years?

A: Servant leadership is primarily about helping others grow. That’s our approach across our campuses, all the time. Even in tumultuous times, we stay true to our overarching mission – serving and educating others; living our core values; our commitment to a strong liberal arts core; our focus on the teacher-scholar model; training our students in scholarship; upholding our international focus, and so forth, so we can bring unity, cross-collaboration, and multidisciplinary connections to a diverse academic community with expertise in many disciplines.

Although I’m a physicist, I also enjoy philosophy (my appreciation for philosophy was stimulated when I was an undergraduate taking my liberal arts requirements). When times get tough, I might ask the question, “What would Aquinas or Aristotle or Augustine say about leadership in this circumstance?” The answer is clear from them – it is all about virtue.

On a personal level, I always go back to virtue. I have six virtues pasted on my computer to remind me every day:

  1. To be purposeful – leading a life of higher purpose as a servant leader and being purposeful with others’ time, talents, and contributions.
  2. To have empathy – understanding others in a meaningful way to know their struggles, challenges, and opportunities.
  3. To be humble – the university is a big place and includes many brilliant leaders, not just one; our collective vision advances us, and knowing one’s contribution to the mission is important.
  4. To have courage – to think boldly and take action; with so many opportunities out there, we have to pick and choose those that will advance our students, faculty, staff, and the university as a whole.
  5. To unify many different units and disciplines so we are truly a “uni”-versity, working together and collaborating across disciplines.
  6. To be magnanimous, knowing that a university has an abundance of smart, talented and accomplished people – the best in their fields.

I recognize as a leader that compassion is equally important – in addition to having a big mind, we must have a big heart for students, staff, faculty, community, and alumni. I believe these virtues, like our core values in the Code of Love and Honor, equip us to face any challenge that comes our way, now or in the future, and keep us focused on our strengths.

People often ask whether I have a favorite leadership book. I am not much on self-help books, but there are elements of these that address virtue and leadership: Virtuous Leadership: An Agenda for Personal Excellence by Alexandre Harvard (Scepter Publishers, 2007) and If Aristotle Ran General Motors: The New Soul of Business by Tom Morris (Henry Holt and Company, Inc., 1998). 

Q: How did you know the football team was bowl bound when they were 0-6 as you said publicly?

I have tremendous confidence in our student-athletes and coaching staff. Our student-athletes have remarkable perseverance and grit, in and out of the classroom, and I figured that would carry the day. Also, there are some interesting correlations that I must bring to everyone’s attention. We started the winning streak right after my inauguration on Oct. 10, 2016. At the inauguration, Coach Martin sat next to our famous alumnus Coach Parseghian and helped me award the President’s Medal to him. Our first win of the year was against my alma mater, Kent State University. Coincidences? I jokingly told others I started calling the plays after my inauguration. In all seriousness, I’m proud of the RedHawks football team and how they pushed through adversity to turn this into a truly special and historic season, going from 0-6 to 6-6 with a bowl appearance.

And though you asked about football, volleyball provided one of my favorite sports experiences in the semester. Renate and I were “bench coaches” when the team broke its record win-streak at 19 games. I was caught on film jumping up and down celebrating after the win – perhaps a little too enthusiastic, but proud of our student-athletes’ accomplishments. The team won the MAC and represented Miami in the NCAA tournament in Ann Arbor. It’s also an amazing team off the court, with the highest Graduation Success Rate in the MAC (100%) and a team average 3.38 GPA. Renate and I are also looking forward to the spring sports and predict a great season for softball, which got off to an impressive 6-1 start in the fall.

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