Chancellor Telfer and the Narrow Limits of Public Relations

Chancellor Dick Telfer’s several years as leader of UW-Whitewater now draw to a close.

In that time, Telfer’s administration – with a staff of ten in media relations – has pushed countless stories in the Daily Union, Gazette, Register, and Banner touting not simply students’ genuinely worthy accomplishments, but significantly his own importance.

That’s Dick Telfer, a long-in-the-tooth professor of education and subsequent administrator, presented to the city as visionary, as innovator, as champion (absurdly) of entrepreneurial activity, an enthusiastic, cheerleading proponent of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation’s cronyism & white-collar welfare.

And yet, and yet, where did all this sycophancy, all these photo-ops with politicians, insiders, and bureaucrats, get Dr. Telfer and his university?

For himself, he probably has quite the full scrapbook.

For his university, it’s nothing but millions in cuts (perhaps over fourteen-million) and layoffs for others, all the smarmy leadership name-dropping and vainglorious administrative self-promotion notwithstanding.

Public relations doesn’t bring success – dedicated students, professors, and coaches bring success.  On the contrary, the preoccupation with media relations has done nothing to protect this school or its programs. 

The important and worthy work of students and faculty, expressed humbly and plainly, is all that ever mattered, and is all that ever will matter. 

Dick Telfer and his ilk will likely never grasp this, but countless students and professors of the UW System surely understand as much, and understand it very well, too.

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9 years ago

If your point is that a lot of the supposed clout of the chancellor’s office is illusory, then you’re right.If your point is that there’s too much exaggeration from that office, then you’re right.This was an average chancellor presented as a fantastic leader, but he’s really not much of a leader.The problem is that the people who have been this way won’t get those points at all.They just want to tell themselves what they want to hear.

9 years ago

Whitewater seems to be taking bigger cuts by percent than *any other school* in the system. It makes it impossible to argue that chancellor Telfer got any useful influence for Whitewater out of being interim president or cozy with Team Walker (wedc for example). Maybe Whitewater would be better off if he talked less not more.