University President Joel Seligman was right to step down from his post, effective Feb. 28.

By any realistic standard, it’s clear that Seligman would not have been able to continue leading UR. Trust between his administration and the student body had frayed too far. Seligman failed to comfort the community when it needed it the most. At his town hall-style forum last semester, he often hedged his answers, despite students forcing him into a difficult, and sometimes unfair, position. At a national level, hundreds of professors are encouraging high schoolers to avoid studying here because of the administration.

Overall, his response to charges that his administration mishandled allegations against Professor T. Florian Jaeger lacked the kind of empathetic leadership it needed.

None of this is quite a surprise. Seligman has never been much of a people person, which isn’t necessarily a negative. He is cerebral; however, students needed more than that.

This has been an ugly ending to a mostly successful tenure as president.

During Seligman’s 12 years, UR’s enrollment shot up, and diversified too, with a 12 percent increase for underrepresented minorities between 2005 and 2014. The leader of Rochester’s Fringe Festival has cited Seligman as a fundamental force behind its creation. And most importantly, he launched and found success in fundraisers for the school over the years — notably the Meliora Challenge, the largest fundraiser in UR history. That fundraiser brought UR over $1.36 billion, exceeding its goal by $168 million. Those numbers cannot be overstated.

In a 2004 report, the Faculty Senate said it believed UR’s next president would need to strengthen the school’s national reputation, support and enhance the “intellectual creativity of faculty and students,” raise funds and better alumni relations, and serve as a highly visible representative of UR on all levels. The next president, that body wrote, would need to respect the University’ decentralized structure and “to raise money in an aggressive fashion.”

Over his 12 years, Seligman checked several of these boxes. But at the end of the day, it was time for him to leave.

 

 

 

Tagged: jaeger Seligman


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