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Opening Arguments

The outsider

Mitch Daniels is winning hearts and minds at Purdue:

The skepticism has evolved into guarded optimism. Daniels appears to have supporters in most corners of the university – including many faculty members who previously expressed trepidation. He has challenged institutional orthodoxy on the way higher education budget decisions are made, and he is still standing.

[. . .]

Daniels has built support in a way that many at Purdue say would only be possible for an outsider – by approaching the presidency without preconceived notions of how to operate in the job; by meeting with as many university stakeholders as possible to hear a range of opinions; and by being willing to change his mind on issues.

That's always the way of really successful people, isn't it? Free of preconceived notions, they "challenge institutional orthodoxy," although to them it doesn't seem that way; they're just doing what needs to be done. It has famously been said of Orson Welles that he made "Citizen Kane" into one of the best, most innovative films of all time because he had no idea how things were supposed to be done, so he just made it up as he went along. I achieved minor success as a twice-weekly columnist in Michigan City -- had a following, picked up a couple of awards. Looking back, I realize I had no idea what a columnist was supposed to do, so I just put whatever wild idea came into my head down on paper. Amazingly, my editors there went along with it.

If there were ever an institution needing to be shaken out of its orthodoxy it is the moribund higher education system in this country. More power to him.

Posted in: Hoosier lore