Staff Editorial:Startling consequence of business school turmoil

So far this semester, the GW School of Business hasn’t been focusing on the education of its 3,600 students, but rather on the drama surrounding the school’s leader and faculty.

The school’s mismanagement, lack of consistent leadership and immature politicking is putting that education at risk.

Last week, The Hatchet reported that, following Dean Doug Guthrie’s abrupt firing last month, some professors in the business school are worried that the school won’t receive accreditation this year from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.

Now, Provost Steven Lerman has asserted his confidence that the school will not face a hurdle. But the mere possibility of losing accreditation is disturbing on its own.

What are accreditors supposed to think when they visit a school riddled with infighting? How can they approve of a business school with ambitions of becoming a top 20 institution but barely receiving enough funding to reach the top 50?

If the college loses accreditation or receives a public relations blow by being put on probation, recent graduates will bear the brunt of the hit and prospective students might be deterred from applying.

It’s clear that in Guthrie’s firing, there’s plenty of blame to go around. And repeated tensions between Guthrie and University President Steven Knapp over how to spend money suggest that the former dean wasn’t the right fit for the business school from the beginning.

But if nothing else, the chronic disconnect and poor communication between the dean, faculty, Lerman and Knapp should serve as a case study in poor leadership.

It keeps getting worse. New reports surfaced this week stating that Faculty Senate executive committee chair Scheherazade Rehman is being investigated for allegedly making claims that Guthrie had sexual relationships with University leaders and was hoarding profits from GW’s efforts to build ties with China.

The day the story was published, the University backed off and said it found no evidence implicating Rehman. But extreme accusations aside, it’s clear that faculty paranoia and agitation, as well as administrative naivete, has created a toxic culture at a university trying to effectively train scholars and leaders.

We’ve seen similar drama between faculty and deans appointed by Knapp before. After nearly receiving a vote of no confidence from law faculty, former law school dean Paul Schiff Berman left his post and was charged with spearheading GW’s foray into online education.

Repeated turnover in leadership is embarrassing and concerning. And everyone involved – especially Knapp, who has a track record of hiring unsuccessful deans – should be concerned that their confrontations might adversely affect students.

Hopefully business school accreditors are forgiving.

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