President Joel Seligman addressed members of The College community Monday in a town hall meeting to outline plans, answer questions and review progress since he assumed office in July.
“The question is how far can we really take this university,” Seligman said.
Speaking to a crowd of students, faculty, staff and administrators in Hoyt Auditorium, Seligman addressed topics including stem cell research, diversity, working with the Rochester community and strategic planning.
Seligman argues that expanding stem cell research will bring the best faculty to UR in addition to bringing advanced medical work that has the potential to cure diseases and relieve suffering.
“I’ve organized an effort with 14 other university presidents and provosts to work with the state legislature to encourage stem cell research,” Seligman said. “It will bring our school some great researchers and teachers and help retain them.”
Political and moral obstacles currently stand in the way of stem cell research, but Seligman remains firm, saying he is “deeply troubled” by such obstacles because embryonic stem cells used in research “would have no chance of living.”
Improving diversity at The College, especially among faculty, is another top priority for Seligman.
“We’d like to have a real sense of how to make people of any race or gender feel welcome,” Seligman said.
UR is examining the practices of various organizations and universities from across the country to find effective ways to improve diversity. He attributes a lack of diversity among faculty to slow turnover rates, which means that there are only a few faculty positions to fill each year. He hopes to have a report on diversity prepared by spring.
Seligman also hopes to improve the Rochester community by expanding UR’s involvement with the city on multiple fronts, which he believes is a key component to UR’s success.
“I’ve spent some time focusing on the community, which is a euphemism for a lot of things,” Seligman said.
Among the projects Seligman is currently undertaking is the Brooks Landing project, which broke ground after 20 years of planning.
Seligman attributed the progress to 19 th ward leadership, but mentioned that he was able to help push the project through its final delays in government.
“Brooks Landing will ultimately lead to a community development that will include a hotel, retail space and university office space,” Seligman said.
Seligman emphasized the importance of UR’s relationship with the 19th ward.
“Ten percent of our students, faculty and staff live in the 19th ward,” Seligman said. “It’s not like we’re separated – them and us. Them is us. This is a tough nut to crack, but it’s one where I want to spend a fair amount of time.”
Additionally, Rochester Mayor-elect Robert Duffy has named Seligman to co-chair the Community/Intergovernmental Relations committee of Duffy’s transition team.
Seligman is also working to improve UR’s strategic planning process.
He hopes department leadership will carefully and realistically examine their long-term plans.
“Strategic planning will start with The College,” Seligman said. “In my view, strategic planning comes with new efforts in communication. It is ultimately about choices and planning.”
Seligman noted that schools tend to view their goals “budget to budget,” but he hopes that leaders will examine long-term goals. Current priorities include plans focusing on retaining the best faculty, improving facilities and labs and as increasing student diversity through aid programs.
Students were impressed with his ability to adequately field questions on a wide variety of subjects.
“I think this open forum for discussion is really important to building a positive community,” SSJ Programming Chair and senior David Ladon said. “I was impressed by his candidness and his willingness to promote transparency within the university.”
“He has a strong understanding of UR, but also has a great perspective of higher education in general because of his experience,” sophomore Daniel Goldstein said. “He knows what a university needs to succeed and knows how to make UR one of the top institutions in the country. I was especially impressed with how willing he was to speak with students and how able he was to answer tough questions on such a broad array of subjects.”
Bruml can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.