From the Editor: Why the Ohio State Presidency Might be the Worst Job in Columbus

The OSU president’s post requires business sense, diplomacy, political savvy and myriad other skills. As tenures in the office grows shorter, is it time to rethink the university’s top job?

Dave Ghose
Columbus Monthly
Columbus Monthly’s February 2023 issue

In two-and-a-half years, Kristina Johnson experienced a rise and fall for the ages. In 2021, she was one of Columbus’ emerging stars—a talented and ambitious leader who seemed poised to take Ohio State University to unprecedented heights. Then in late November 2022, the university announced that Johnson will resign at the end of the academic year—a stunning reversal of fortune. Our February 2023 cover story digs into this turn of events, examining the confusing circumstances and unanswered questions that surround her departure.

I wrote this story, and it was familiar terrain for me. I’m not sure how I became Columbus Monthly’s Bricker Hall correspondent, but I’ve written major features about every Ohio State president going back to Karen Holbrook in 2003. Each leader, of course, has been very different, but certain themes have run through every one of these stories. Chief among them is this: the profoundly challenging nature of being the president of Ohio State. “It may be the most difficult job in the country,” says real estate developer Ron Pizzuti. “I personally believe that the presidency of a large public university like Ohio State is probably the toughest job in the world,” says Gil Cloyd, chair of the Ohio State Foundation Board and a former university trustee. “I don’t think they’ve printed enough money since the beginning of time to make me want the job of president of Ohio State,” says prominent OSU donor Stanley Ross.

Read the cover story:The Dazzling Rise and Stunning Fall of Ohio State University President Kristina Johnson

Based on what I’ve seen and heard over the years, it’s hard to disagree with these sentiments. To succeed at Ohio State, a president needs to be a scholar, a diplomat, a politician, a lobbyist and a CEO. Does any single person meet all of those standards? Maybe not.

Columbus Monthly editor Dave Ghose

Which makes an idea floated by Cloyd intriguing. He suggests restructuring the job, creating a new position of “chief operating officer,” who would assume many of the president’s current duties. “I think that could be a very good model for these large public universities,” he says.

It’s worth considering.

This story is from the February 2023 issue of Columbus Monthly.