Discussing qualities of a good president as the search begins

Category:  Opinions
Thursday, January 24th, 2019 at 8:49 AM

Edinboro University has had quite the run of presidents. Dr. H. Fred Walker, the latest, resigned after a scandal involving The Chronicle of Higher Education, remarks about faculty and remarks he made about a student. Since Frank G. Pogue’s departure in 2007, the university has cycled through six presidents, three of which where interim. Michael Hannan, who we actually advocated for last semester as a permanent replacement, is stepping back to his provost duties. And thus, we are back to the search for a new leader.

The search for this new figure has begun with Witt/Kieffer assisting the search committee, and according to an email from the president’s office, a web page for the search will be launched soon and “the search committee will be looking for a president that will advance priorities already identified by the members of the University community.”

The goal is to have a new president set by July 1, 2019. The committee is made up of multiple people within the Edinboro University community, with staff, professors and alumni accounted for. The process of finding a president entails a few steps, including interviews, running references and the top candidates being recommended by the on-campus search committee to the PASSHE board of governors. They, along with the chancellor, will make the final decision. 

First, The Spectator interviewed students on what they would like to see in the next president. 

Derrian Ulmer, a sophomore computer science major, thinks the president should have “several years of experience running large organizations and a sense of empathy and understanding of students who go into debt in order to achieve a higher level of education at this college.”

He would also like the president to have a plan to fix the cutting of majors. 

Kaity Kirby, freshman animation major, hopes the president has experience with young people and “working with young minority groups would be something I’d definitely like to see.”

She also wants a president that “is thoughtful of his actions and how they affect others” and hopes that they have “the well-being of the student body in mind at all times.’’

Hannah Flynn, part of the graphics team at The Spectator, wants a president that “knows and appreciates the history and traditions of Edinboro.” As an art major, she would “love to see someone who will appreciate the arts and music our campus offers.”

Hannah McDonald, a journalism/digital media production major and member of The Spectator, wants the president “to have gone to a state college or university.”

For Catherine Shulik, a senior computer science major, her requirements are much shorter than the other students. “I just want someone who won’t slander the university and its students,” she said.

Kristie Baldwin, a sophomore forensic accounting major, doesn’t think experience is as important: “I think the president should be someone who is looking to make a name for himself. Like he doesn’t have a lot of experience at that level but wants to further it. Granted, they won’t be here long, but it’d be long enough to get the university back on track.”

As shown by the last quote, some students are used to presidents that have only short tenures in the ‘Boro. Indeed, the sophomore and freshmen classes have only known inconsistent leadership thus far into their academic career. This sets a dangerous precedent that the president’s office has become a revolving door. In order to properly solve the issues the university faces, a president should be committed to the long term. 

Next, we wanted to take a look at some past presidential hiring announcements for clues as to which qualities the university will be looking for. One was repeatedly mentioned.

The last two Edinboro presidents have been hailed for their experience in the PASSHE press releases. Walker’s “more than 20 hears of experience” were used as a mark of his leadership abilities by the then Board of Governors Chairman Guido M. Pichini. Pichini also said in the release, “With his vast array of skills, his knowledge and his experience, we are confident he will be an excellent leader for Edinboro University.”  

The press release for Dr. Julie Wollman’s hiring also had Pichini focusing on her experience. “Dr. Wollman has a long and impressive record in higher education, including in several key administrative positions.”

The PASSHE Chancellor at the time, Dr. John C. Cavanaugh, also focused on her experience. “Dr. Wollman’s vision and experience in many areas of higher education make her an outstanding leader.” 

So if history repeats itself, the president will likely have the experience most students seem to want, but the question remains on how long they’ll stay.

Erica Burkholder | voices.spectator@gmail.com

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