EU Acting President and PASSHE Interim Chancellor discuss admin changes, university’s path forward

Category:  News
Wednesday, April 4th, 2018 at 5:15 PM
EU Acting President and PASSHE Interim Chancellor discuss admin changes, university’s path forward by Dakota Palmer
Photo: Dakota Palmer

In a closed meeting with local news organizations on Monday morning, Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) Interim Chancellor Karen Whitney and Edinboro University Acting President Dr. Michael Hannan answered various questions about the university’s path forward. The meeting came in wake of former university president Dr. H. Fred Walker’s recent resignation.

In regard to that resignation, effective last Friday, Whitney simply said, “I respect Dr. Walker’s decision, [and] we are now moving forward under Dr. Hannan’s capable leadership.”

Remaining in her opening statement, she continued: “Edinboro is an outstanding university comprised of very dedicated faculty and staff, very loyal and hardworking students and incredible alumni. They have been in business for over 160 years, [and] they’re going to be here for at least another 160 years.”

Whitney noted that in the student and faculty meetings she and Hannan held earlier in the morning, “there’s been some great discussions.” 

“Edinboro students love their university,” she said. “There’s loyalty, enthusiasm, [and] a commitment to working with Dr. Hannan that’s obvious to me. They’re fired up to finish this semester and to work with him going into next year.”

When asked about how stability in university leadership, especially the presidential seat, is important, Hannan emphasized that “there are many people like me who have been at the university for many years.”

He continued, “I’m proud to be in this position — but again — there are many like me who work day in and day out to provide a high quality education for our students, and that’s going to continue.”

Whitney mentioned the national average for presidential tenures at universities similar to Edinboro is 6.5 years. 

“Some tenures have been longer than 6.5 and some have been shorter,” she said. “Yeah, it’s a good thing to have a president who is able to get to know the community to lead it, so I won’t say that it’s not important — but it’s not a requirement.”

Whitney, when asked when the state system will begin its search for a permanent president, believed the university should take time to “breathe” and “reflect.” 

“Let me be clear: we are taking things one step at a time,” she said. “We are breathing, we’re listening, we’re learning, we’re taking stock and the overriding interest here is strong, stable, executive leadership for Edinboro University.”

Whitney continued: “This community needs to heal and reconcile and talk to each other, and that’s what I’m encouraging today. From that, we’ll emerge [with] a sense of confidence and interest in going forward with any type of search.”

One reporter asked how Hannan’s style of leadership differs from Walker’s. Hannan said he looks for collaboration with individuals, “from the student level all the way up through the department faculty, department chairs, vice presidents, [among others].”

“I think that transparency is a word that is frequently used, and I believe when it is implemented genuinely, that transparency is very important,” Hannan explained. “I don’t really believe in making decisions that aren’t defensible, and so I am open to input. I’m open to fully explaining the decisions that I made to any constituent group so that they understand that the reason for those decisions is for the betterment of the institution and not just for personal decisions on my part.”

For those curious of Hannan’s eligibility regarding the eventual permanent presidency, according to Whitney, the state system rules are that the interim president cannot apply for the permanent position. She also noted the tenure of the acting president (which Hannan currently is, he is not interim at this time) typically lasts between six and eight weeks. Whitney later said in an interview with GoErie.com that she will likely change Hannan’s title from “acting” to “interim” later this week when the university Council of Trustees meets.

According to PASSHE policy, if a search committee is formed, it would be comprised of: three members of the council of trustees, one executive from the university, two faculty members (one in an alternate role), two non-instructional individuals (one in an alternate role), one student, one alumna/alumnus, up to three others within the university, and one current or former president or chancellor from a comparable university. They are then charged with finding a new president through the help of a consulting firm.

“Our focus is really on what we do best and that is in teaching our students and providing great learning opportunities for them so we can finish this semester in as positive a way as possible,” Hannan concluded.

Dakota Palmer can be reached at edinboro.spectator@gmail.com.

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