President Walker: EU expects ‘bright path forward’

Category:  News
Wednesday, December 7th, 2016 at 6:20 PM
President Walker: EU expects ‘bright path forward’ by Macala Leigey
Photo: Kimberly Firestine

With 2016 coming to an end, Edinboro University President Dr. H. Fred Walker experienced several challenges during his first semester at Edinboro.

A historic strike, low enrollment rates, and financial struggles all greeted Walker as he stepped into the presidential position. Despite these challenging situations, he continues to stay optimistic for the future of Edinboro University.

“I remain optimistic that there's a bright path forward for the university, but to obtain that bright path, to walk on that bright
path, we're going to have to do things a lot differently than we've done them, and there's no way around that, and no way to sugar coat those words,” Walker said.

Regarding Edinboro’s recovery process since the state-wide faculty union strike, Walker expressed some tension still remains throughout the state system, but on campus, the disruptions, for the most part, have disappeared.

“I think, overall, the divisiveness from the strike is fading over time and I think that's the biggest emphasis point. And that's very fortunate because we don't need the systemic structural divisiveness that's across the campus, but I think that it’s fair to say that throughout the PASSHE system there continues to be a tension between faculty and the staff,” he said.

“The one thing that I've heard many times, and I still continue to hear, is that we've got to be really careful about sending messages, explicitly or implicitly, that any one group on campus is more or less important than any other group.”

Walker continued, “I think, overall, the  divisiveness is going away, but I think there's going to be that lingering issue there, and as president I can't address that. I really worked with our collective bargaining leader, Michael Bucell, to go out with a joint message [in] trying to show a consistency and a coherence in the community.”

As a way of strengthening the university’s sense of community, Walker plans to implement a group-based infrastructure, comparable to a “Checks and Balances” system.

“We're going to form three work groups, and of these groups, each will be 15 people and one team facilitator — so 14 active players. We're having a very inclusive structure in those teams for a very important reason — we don't want any one group to drown out another group,” Walker said.

He also shared that the work groups will include faculty, graduate and undergraduate students, staff and managers, local employers, the foundation board, alumni and the council of trustees.

“We have to be very careful to consider that this university is composed of a lot of different constituent groups, and that there isn't one group that's more or less important than another. We also have to remember that [this] extends beyond the university,” Walker said.

He continued, “That’s why we have employers and why we have alumni. These people all have a stake in the matter through being taxpayers of the commonwealth, and that's why I think it’s important we include all of these voices at the table.”

The work group system will begin by conducting a discovery and analysis process during the first few weeks of the spring semester. At the conclusion of the analysis process, the data collected will be sent to an external firm to validate the data.

In addition to the data and analysis process, a SCOT analysis is going to be conducted, in which strengths, challenges, opportunities and threats to the university will be examined.

“I think that it’s (the work group system) a really wonderful opportunity for everyone to take a look collectively at our university financially, academically and in terms of business processes, and in terms of the health of our academic inventory and really, very carefully, look at data and objectivity to see what we can do better,” Walker said.

He continued, “I think that it’s fair and clear to say that we know we're going to have to do some work, and that's from the positive side, because we can build on some accomplishments and make some neat things here.”

Walker concluded by applying one of his personal aspirations to the university as a whole.

“I want to be judged someday in history as being a person who tried to do the right thing, whether it was hard or not. I want to be judged as somebody who was honest, had integrity, and was open and inclusive, because in my mind that's what the academy stands for.” 

Macala Leigey is the news editor for The Spectator. She can be reached at eupnews.spectator@gmail.com.

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