The University of Kentucky trustees made it clear last week that they approve of the job Eli Capilouto is doing as president.
In addition to words of praise, the board gave him a 2-percent raise, bringing his base pay to $535,000 a year, plus a bonus of $150,000.
Outgoing board chairman Britt Brockman said "outstanding" was a word commonly used in Capilouto's evaluation, which included input from board members and 24 others: three each of senior university leaders, alumni, donors, faculty, staff, students, community leaders and government officials.
Brockman himself said it was "unbelievable what this university has accomplished," and praised the "palpable energy on this campus."
There should be energy, with UK's enrollment surpassing 30,000 for the first time ever, including a freshman class of 5,000.
It is amazing how, under Capilouto's leadership, the campus is being transformed, with expansions of the business school and the student center, a new science building and, of course, the new dormitories either built or under construction through a contract with a private, for-profit. A similar outsourcing deal was recently struck for UK's food service.
Capilouto gave this physical transformation a personal nudge, pledging $250,000 toward a new, $100 million, multi-disciplinary health research center at UK.
However, even within the sympathetic evaluation, Capilouto's third, persistent issues with Capilouto's performance arose. Respondents raised concerns about openness and transparency, an emphasis on finances rather than research and development, on a lack of emphasis on graduate education, an autocratic management style that doesn't tolerate dissent or seek input from outside the ranks of senior management, and lack of diversity in senior management.
Respondents also expressed concern that relationships with the city and preservationists "are frayed" and about the long-term impact on the university of the partnerships with private companies.
Of particular concern is that similar issues arose in Capilouto's two previous evaluations.
In his first evaluation, in 2012, people polled urged the president to model diversity in hiring his staff and to "reach outside his immediate staff for advice." "The level, content and nature," of communications between the president and various groups were also highlighted in that review. Communications issues also arose in last year's review, as did concerns about the impact of the push for undergraduate enrollment on graduate education.
No one accomplishes what Capilouto has without causing some friction.
Still, the president, and the board, should take these persistent issues to heart.
A university is an organization where communication, debate and diversity are not only appropriately tolerated but are essential to its mission.