The Search for a New President Continues

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The presidential search process continues. Consultant Kate Hayley has held two open forums over the past two weeks, and many have reported being impressed with the consultant.  Dr. Hayley met with the staff senate immediately before the open forum, and mentioned that she received a clear message from them.  Burkely Hermann, sophomore, said afterwards “I was surprised by the frank discussion that was had, and how open she was to our concerns.”

Dr. Hayley herself said “It’s really important at the beginning of the process, especially at a place like St. Mary’s, to talk to as many people from as many constituencies as possible to give them a chance to weigh in on the type of president and future they’re interested in.”

There was some positive faculty response to Dr. Hayley’s visit.  One assistant professor, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said they felt “hopeful that [Hayley] understands what we do here and can find candidates who share that understanding.”

Assistant Vice President for Board Relations Kathy Grimes noted that there is a Google form for those who were unable to attend meetings with Dr. Hayley to provide further input.

Despite the college’s outreach attempts, some students, like junior Jillian Hurst, still feel excluded from the process.  Jillian voiced frustration with the Board of Trustees’ methods of gaining student input, citing the recent presidential search forums as a specific example.  “They schedule their meetings during class time,” she said. “There is rarely a meeting they plan that does not interfere with my class schedule.”  She went on to add, “they are distanced from the student body as a whole.”

Both of the forums with Dr. Hayley, which were open to students were scheduled during classes, and announced only two days in advance. Abiola Akanni, SDS President, said “When we want people to show up to our events, we don’t schedule them during class time.  We don’t just send out an email.  It’s almost like they didn’t want students to show up.”

Anuli Duru, senior and search committee member, said that some students might not be aware of this opportunity to make their opinions heard. “There’s an obvious concern.  I’ve talked to students before and they don’t necessarily know these things are happening because they’re being communicated through email,” she said.

At the end of my interview with Duru, she added that she was hopeful that non-student members of the search committee would be open to tabling in the Campus Center to raise visibility and gather student input.  There was only a handful of students at the open forum she was able to attend. Tabling in campus center, even during class time, could possibly reach more students.

Regardless of whether or not the search committee and Dr. Hayley understand what we need in a president, some are concerned that the Board of Trustees will make the final decision.  A second anonymous assistant professor wrote, from a non-SMCM email account, “Will the Board of Trustees select another version of Joe Urgo? If acting President Ian Newbould’s views on public liberal arts institutions are any indication, [the Board of Trustees] might hire someone with incompatibly different goals and ideas.  Will they make use of Dr. Hayley’s recommendations and considerations?  Obviously, only time will tell.  Until then, pessimism remains, anxious silence permeates, and CVs are being updated.”

 

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