Students used a town hall meeting to emphasize the need for a progressive president willing to identify UR’s problems and develop solutions with input from the community.
“[We need] a president with a purpose,” an undergraduate student said. “They have to have ideas and they have to be motivated.”
Held this past Wednesday in the Hawkins-Carlson Room of Rush Rhees Library, it was the first of four student town hall meetings related to the search for a new University president.
Turnout was low — fewer than fifteen undergraduate and graduate students attended. Even so, a variety of topics were discussed throughout the hour-long session.
The dialogue began with a brief presentation explaining the progress of the search by senior Hannah Dick, co-chair of the Student Advisory Committee. It is one of the committees assisting the Trustees’ Presidential Search Committee in their proposal of the future candidate.
To begin, many students spoke of the diversity at UR as one of the biggest strengths that would attract presidential candidates.
“You can go to any university and get a great education but what I would hope for the next president is that they would concert that diversity and help it prosper because that’s something that’s really amazing and unique to U of R,” one undergraduate said.
Other competitive advantages mentioned included the Rochester Curriculum, the Eastman School of Music, River Campus Libraries, various graduate programs on campus, and the extent of URMC.
Student expectations of the next president included a willingness to be responsive and accessible to UR’s community, as well as developing further connections to the surrounding Rochester community.
A few students said they believed the next president should be chosen from within the University community, with one student specifically mentioning Dean of Admissions Jonathan Burdick as an example.
“They’d have a better idea of the culture and what does work and what doesn’t,” one student said.
Other students disagreed, emphasizing the need for an outsider.
“Sometimes you need someone from the outside to see the main challenges and what needs to be improved,” one student said.
Students concerned with the external perception of the University, especially in the wake of the Jaeger scandal last year, highlighted the need for the next president to have a clear plan to fix UR’s damaged reputation.
Some students also wanted the future president to implement new efforts to expand name recognition of the University. However, a few students countered that the University should address internal problems before trying to increase prestige and fame.
Excess administration was mentioned as another problem facing the University.
“There’s a lot of bureaucracy within the school and that tends to hamper a lot of things down and it’s also a big cost to the school,” one student said. “[The next president should] find a way to cut down on the administration in the school.”
One student disagreed because of her experiences with all the “helpful and welcoming” staff on campus.
“I think that every administrator here is very important to the University,” she said. “Everybody has a job and trying to balance it all and give more work to other people just would overwork them.”
Many attendees wanted to ensure the prioritization of minority students on campus.
“More diversity could mean more black people because we don’t have that,” one student said.
Along with this, recognizing the needs of all students was a suggestion many agreed on.
“[We need] a president that will recognize the needs of all of our students on campus and [especially] those with who may have more niche requirements,” one student said.
Also in attendance at the town hall were Dean of the College Jeffrey Runner and Co-Chair of the University Advisory Committee and Professor Michael Scott. While many students inquired about specific characteristics of candidates being considered, Scott reiterated the strict confidentiality of the process. Although, he suggested students continue to provide valuable input on various available platforms.