Sure, We All Err, but Some Wonder if a University President’s Mistakes Could Drag Higher Education Down to Ground Level?

It reads like a steamy novel, “The Return of Rosenberg.”  It tells a compelling story about the state of affairs at a major university where incidents may have taken higher education to a lower floor, maybe ground level.

Mark resigned as president of Florida International University in Miami amid allegations of misconduct with a woman in his office, which he said stemmed from his having to take care of his seriously ill wife for such a long time. 

As a caregiver myself for many years, I can sympathize with Mark as my first wife fought a long, courageous battle with breast cancer that she ultimately lost, yet I didn’t stray and was at her side to the merciful end to her suffering. 

Rosenberg said in January his mental health had been impacted by the pressure of caring for his wife suffering with dementia.  He said her condition had worsened, which led to what he described as an entanglement with the employee.  Maybe the word is enTANGOment as he seemed to want to tango.

Whatever you call it, Rosenberg’s now returning to FIU and in January will reportedly earn $377,000 to teach one class per semester. 

Talk about a rebound, that’s almost as much as what he earned previously as president of one of the most respected universities.

Rosenberg has been on a one-year paid sabbatical since resigning in January, during which it’s reported he continued to collect his $502,578 salary.

When he starts teaching in January, his pay won’t plummet very much. In fact, it’s been reported in the news it will still be more than twice the average tenured professor’s salary at FIU’s Steven J. Green School of International & Public Affairs.

Rosenberg said like most humans, he’s “fallible,” but he hopes those in the university community will judge him on the body of his work and commitment.

FIU’s Student Body President said he trusts the FIU Faculty Advisory Board’s conclusion.  He said they looked at the facts, were able to dive deep and if they felt he should return, “who am I to say ‘you’re wrong.’” 

Yet other FIU students see it as an example of what’s wrong with higher education today and why costs have skyrocketed over the last 30 years.  

“They’re going to pay this guy close to $400,000 to teach one class per semester. Give me a break.  Colleges must face real-world costs like businesses do,” wrote a former student in response to Rosenberg’s return. 

So, what did Rosenberg have to do to be forgiven and his salary nearly restored? 

According to Miami Herald higher education reporter Jimena Tavel, he had to undergo sexual harassment training and must review university policies on sexual harassment and misconduct every year.

Earlier this year, he had quit as FIU’s fifth president after the young woman in the president’s office alleged he had made unwanted advances over several months.  Earlier this year, Rosenberg profusely apologized for having “unintentionally created emotional [not physical] entanglement” with the FIU female employee. 

You can look at it a couple of ways. The 73-year-old Rosenberg’s return to teaching where he had started as an assistant professor of political science in 1976 is a testament to the university’s capability to forgive an educator who has had a productive and an otherwise unblemished career. 

Or you can think of it as what’s wrong with higher education today where too much freedom can sometimes lead to abusive teachings or teachers.  

Rosenberg said he’s excited to be coming back and has a lot of appreciation for the university and the people who work there.

Asked what he’d tell students who feel hesitant about taking his class, he said they’re entitled to their views, but he urges them to have “an open mind.”

Once a college professor himself at Rutgers, Loyola and FAU universities, Tom Madden today is CEO of TransMedia Group and when not doing PR, he’s writing books, including WORDSHINE MAN about how to make writing more inviting, and of course his weekly blog at