IMAGE:  December 2002 GRAPHIC:  University of Chicago Magazine
Volume 95, Issue 2
LINK:  Also in every issue
Editor's Notes  
From the President  
LINK:  Features
The Complexity Complex  
Three Months among the Pyramids  
Index to a Canon

The Real Life Adventures of Pinocchio


LINK:  Class Notes
Alumni News  
Alumni Works  
C. Vitae  

LINK:  Campus News
Chicago Journal  
University News e-bulletin  

LINK:  Research
U of C Research Organizations  

GRAPHIC:  Also in every issueFrom the President
Up for discussion
President Don M. Randel details 14 filled—and fulfilling—days in November.

What does the president actually do all day, every day? The short answer is meet with lots of different people about lots of different things. In a large, complex organization where lines of authority are not always clear, simply spending time with a range of people is essential. Luckily, it is also what gives the greatest pleasure in this job. Chicago, by its nature, is made up of interesting people, and there is much to be learned from them and much high-class fun to be had with them in daily life.

I am frequently asked how much I travel. Writing this on November 22, I have been out of town 13 days since October 1. That average is probably about right in general, though much of this was rather tightly packed into October. Most of this travel would go under the heading of development and alumni relations, but there also were trips to the Argonne National Laboratory's site in Idaho and to a biannual meeting of the presidents of the Association of American Universities. By design, I am on campus much more than off.

About a day and a half each week is taken up with standing meetings, including a meeting of the executive staff—the provost and all of the vice presidents (listed, along with other officers, on the University Web site at Particularly important are meetings with the provost and the vice president for administration and chief financial officer, but I meet privately with each member of this group at least every other week. Setting aside these meetings, let me report on some of my activities in the past two weeks.

The Executive Budget Committee (president, provost, vice president for administration and C.F.O., and budget director) met and agreed on the guidelines to be distributed to deans for their use in preparing budgets for the 2003-2004 academic year.

The Capital Projects Committee (president, provost, vice president for administration and C.F.O., budget director, associate vice president for facilities services, vice president for development and alumni relations, and vice president for community and government affairs) met to hear a presentation of the Law School's master plan for facilities and approved proceeding with the first stage of design.

The Committee of the Council of the Faculty Senate (essentially the elected executive committee of the faculty, presided over by the president and attended always by the provost) met to discuss, among other things, the current draft of procedures to deal with charges of harassment.

The Council of the Faculty Senate (also presided over by the president and attended always by the provost) met to discuss the creation of a Ph.D. program in medical physics. There was also further discussion of the campus climate in relation to the Middle East and in particular of the utterly reprehensible harassment of some faculty members in Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations. At the council's previous meeting I had made a statement on the University's policies on free speech and intellectual discourse (which has since been published in the University Record and on the Web site at

I met with the leaders of Student Government, as I do every month or so (the vice president and dean of students also attends). This time the topics revolved around Chicago's finances in the context of recent press reports on retrenchments at other universities. The students are quite naturally concerned about how they and their parents will manage to pay for their education in the face of rising costs and shrinking resources.

Following this meeting came the quarterly brown-bag lunch in the Reynolds Club for any and all students, including representatives of the student press. The attendance varies and is never very large, which makes possible a real exchange. A part of the discussion this time concerned prospects for war in Iraq. As with the Student Government leaders, it was the kind of conversation that civilized grownups have about serious matters.

Another engaging group of students comprises the members of the Women's Athletic Association and of the Order of the C—the oldest such groups in the nation. I had dessert (or, rather, they had dessert, since they burn it off much better) and conversation with them about their lives at the University and the role of athletics. These are people of whom we can be very proud for the discipline they display in competing in athletics while maintaining better-than-average grade-point averages in what we know is a demanding academic program. It turns out that smart is good in sports too. We should be similarly proud of the participation of our students in music, theater, and a host of other activities that form part of their education and help to make the campus such a rich environment.

A day-long symposium was held to mark Milton Friedman's 90th birthday, and I allowed myself the luxury of attending all of it, soaking up the stimulation of astonishingly accomplished thinkers with powerful ideas. A similar pleasure was the symposium associated with the ground-breaking for the great Interdivisional Research Building—extraordinary members of our faculty coming together across disciplines to invent a new world of science.

The list of activities of these two weeks is much longer still, with most evenings out or entertaining in. It adds up to a life filled to overflowing with the best kind of excitement, in service to the best of institutions. One could perhaps feel sorry for the presidents of some universities—but not for me.



Archives Contact About the Magazine Alumni Gateway Alumni Directory UChicago
uchicago® ©2002 The University of Chicago® Magazine 5801 South Ellis Ave., Chicago, IL 60637
phone: 773/702-2163 fax: 773/702-0495