The Dark, Futile Dream | FREE WHITEWATER
FREE WHITEWATER

The Dark, Futile Dream

UW-Whitewater is searching for a new chancellor, and so there’s a search committee, and a search consultant to guide that committee’s work.  The consultant is Dr. Jessica Kozloff, the former president of a small, undistinguished college in Pennsylvania.  (The UW System schools are, each of them, more competitive and developed than the one Dr. Kozloff led until 2007.)

Dr. Kozloff and others see, and perhaps dream, of a world where college presidents will act as they wish, when they wish, without meaningful scrutiny.  One can conclude as much after reading published remarks she made about the role of a college president:

One of the trends we’re finding in the search is that the role of the president is, to some degree, less attractive today because it’s everything from social media to the volatility of politics today,” she said. “All of that has sort of had an impact and made the role much more stressful, especially in a place that has a very, very negative media. However, that’s not going to be true here, so I think that’s going to help.”

Stressful, you see, because social media and the traditional media (at least, by her thinking, the ‘negative’ part of the traditional media) are watching public officials in the performance of their public duties.

I don’t doubt that Dr. Kozloff would prefer a world with a docile and fawning press, and without social media by which students, faculty, and residents might communicate news of administrative actions and decisions. 

Funny about all this: Kozloff is both laughably condescending and wrong at the same time. 

It’s too funny how she speaks to Whitewater’s insiders.  She speaks to them as though they were children, fit for a fairy tale about one Big Bad or another lurking in faraway places.  She speaks something like this: ‘Out there, beyond your safe little hamlet, lurk hungry reporters waiting to devour you.  Stay quiet, don’t make a sound, and maybe – just maybe – you’ll be safe.’

Funnier and sadder still would be the number that heard Dr. Kozloff speak and thought, ‘yes, that’s right.’

If these few are even half of what they claim to be, then why can’t they handle the thorough and series inquiries that come their way? 

It’s odd how wrong Kozloff is, too.  Of the traditional media, such as they now are, and where they’re heading, Kozloff seems profoundly ignorant. 

To be sure, she needn’t worry about the traditional print press of our area going negative; the only place they’re going is broke.  See, Last Call: The end of the printed newspaper.

They’ll not survive the media changes sweeping America – print (including the toadying one that yet persists in our area) – will not survive beyond the next several years.

At first blush, this demise might seem good for insiders, on the theory that no traditional print paper is better than any traditional print paper. 

Nothing could be more wrong.  The media that replace traditional print (with a few exceptions) will be more skeptical of authority, not less, as many of them will originate from non-traditional sources.     

As it stands now, most of the local print press is fawning, and willing to shill for almost any incumbent influencer or political swell it can find.  These pages upon pages are great for insiders’ scrapbooks, but the publications that churn them out have little time left. 

(Note to insiders: Hurry now to give yourselves every award you can concoct – there’ll soon be no admiring print publications to promote your ersatz honors. )

The loss of a supine press, catering to politicians, bureaucrats, and connected, big businesses, is a loss principally to insiders, not to advocates of good policymaking.

As for Whitewater particularly, media changes sweeping America will take from local town squires the reflexively supportive environment they falsely believe that they deserve.  No official in Whitewater will ever again operate without scrutiny. 

Consultant Jessica Kozloff will collect her money and drift away in some other direction. 

Her work will amount to nearly nothing.  Any insider relying on her counsel about the press, or one’s relationship to the community, will find himself or herself disappointed.  The cosseted environment about which she speaks crumbles all around; there’s no future in it. 

For our county and city, however, there is an irresistible movement toward better than we’ve had.

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