Sunday, January 16, 2005

ANYONE WANTING A CLUE about how Condoleeza Rice will run the State Department might want to take a look at how she ran Stanford University when she held the position of provost there.

As the university's No. 2 administrator, Rice is widely credited with helping the school regain its footing during the 1990s after red ink and a financial scandal threatened to engulf it.

But critics say Rice was harsh, even ruthless, during her administration, the one time in her gilded career she has overseen a large institution. Improbably, the youngest provost in Stanford history and the first black and woman to hold the post helped prompt a Labor Department probe into the treatment of women and minorities.

Although Rice was unquestionably intellectually brilliant, politically savvy, and a quick study; and knew how to showcase her famous graciousness and charm,she also antagonized people and was unnecessarily confrontational.

Rice laid off people, cut services, eliminated programs and consolidated others. To supporters, among them Stanford's current president, John Hennessey, Rice's moves were painfully necessary and even courageous. ... But detractors say Rice's moves were made more brutal by the imperious way she carried them out. "She was extremely autocratic in her style," said Albert H. Hastorf, a psychology professor and former Stanford provost. "She didn't brook anyone disagreeing with her."

Rice's comeback is that she has no patience with red tape or bureaucracy and does not believe in making decisions by committee. But many of her colleagues felt she didn't like the academic style of enthusiastic debate and dissent.

Many assert Rice was more than just decisive, ... saying she actively stifled dissent.

Marsh McCall, a professor of classics who served as dean of adult education and Stanford's summer session, recalled being summoned to Rice's office after criticizing a university ad campaign. She told him, McCall said, "Either you're a member of the team, or you're not a member of the team."

"To me," he went on, "that was the quintessential ... message of the kind of open faculty, intellectual debate that wasn't in favor under Condi's provostship."

Sounds a lot like "no bad news, no disagreement tolerated" Pres. Bush, doesn't it? No wonder she fits so well in his administration.

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