Book by Desna L. Wallin
Review by Janice Güneş
Advising, Career, and Transfer Services
Harford Community College, Bel Air, MD

Almost everyone has a boss. We often wonder what dilemmas they must deal with in their every day work lives and what perks they receive. This publication specifically describes these very things as they pertain to community college presidents. For anyone who has been curious about what goes into the making of a community college president contract, this is the perfect book. 

Based on a 2006 CEO Contract and Compensation Survey electronically sent to 1,018 presidents and chancellors (548 responded), Wallin’s book provides a coherent analysis of their responses to questions such as duration of their terms, ability to receive compensation for outside speaking engagements/consulting, if they receive an allowance for home entertaining expenses, if a physical exam is required, and more. Anyone aspiring to be a president or chancellor can be very informed on what to expect and enlightened on how to make it happen by reading this book. 

Two overarching themes are present here. The first is that it is wise to have lawyers on both sides (the board/trustees and the new leader) negotiate the contract to make sure all sides are happy and no problems arise in the future. Presidents have difficult jobs because they answer to not only the board that hired them, but to the community, college employees, students, and parents. There should be nothing in the contract to alienate any of these community college constituents. “Housing allowances…club memberships and dues, and…home office needs should be drawn up in such a way that they are defensible in a public forum and meet the cultural norms of the service area” (59). 

The second theme refers to “golden handcuffs”: the board seeks not only to hire a great person in charge of the college but to retain them as well. A salary bonus or providing 100% of health insurance premiums for the president and spouse upon retirement are examples of “golden handcuffs” that can ensure continued service of a high-performing president through attractive financial benefits (40, 45).  

The most appealing chapter addresses mediation and arbitration within a fictional case-study (Ch. 9). A president is accused of harassing and angrily confronting a whistle-blowing employee along with federal grant non-compliance, and failure to inform the board of this non-compliance. He was dismissed with relocation expenses and temporary use of office space. There was a trial, litigation, and more; the author asks if it was worth being paid his salary ($350,000) but not being protected and defended in the end. If the contract had stated that he could only be dismissed under certain circumstances, the situation might have turned out different. 

 “It is at once a great privilege and opportunity and a great burden” to serve as a community college president (84). Readers of this book can learn just what it takes to be in a position where  close scrutiny and accountability are the norm. While not an academic advising resource, it is an informational publication about what our leaders (those who we may not be in contact with very often) deal with at the top.  

The CEO contract: A guide for presidents and boards (2nd edition). (2007) Book by Desna L. Wallin. Review by Janice Güneş. Washington, DC: Community College Press. 113 pp., $38.00, (paperback), ISBN # 978-0-87117-382-9
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