Over at the City Paper, Pierce Greenberg has an interview with Fisk University's new president, H. James Williams.
The whole thing is worth a read, both for the news it delivers — Williams says, "Well, they’re worse than I thought, financially" — and Williams' attitude toward it, "I think we’re going to be able to get things done that need to be done, and we’ve begun some of the hard work already."
He talks about the things he's already done:
By the time I took over, we had incurred — we’d already incurred a deficit beyond what I expected, and so we had to get to work right away to try to adjust so that we can do what we need to do to balance the revenues with the expenses, or balance the expenses with the revenues.
I’m sure you guys heard about the furloughs and cuts, so we did that early on and that was an interesting experience because the last thing I wanted to do as the new person is to do that.
—and their new recruitment strategies.
The thing that strikes me is that everything about the interview has the ring of truth. For the first time in a long time, someone seems to have a handle on exactly how bad things are at Fisk and is willing to speak frankly about it. You cannot solve a problem until you can look full on at it and say what you see. Williams is doing that.
And that makes his optimism more telling. Yes, he acknowledges, things are going to be tough, but he seems to have a clear plan for how to improve things.
My fingers are crossed for him. Fisk is among the crown jewels of Nashville's important historical and cultural sites. If Williams can put Fisk back on solid footing, he'll be doing good for the university and the whole city.