UR President Thomas Jackson’s decision to step down at the end of the next academic year received mixed reactions from students and faculty.
Announcing that he would retire at the end of his 11th year as president on March 5, Jackson gave the university a year of advance notice to find a replacement.
While many deans and administrators believed it was the culmination of a successful era, some students were not too convinced.
“His presidency has been a remarkable period of change and improvement for the university – all stemming from his leadership at the top,” Provost of the University Charles Phelps said.
Dean of The College William Green reiterated the praise. “I think he’s been an unusually successful president. I’m sorry to see him leave,” he said.
Dean of Students Jody Asbury shared similar thoughts. “I have always had great respect for the great integrity of President Jackson. He came to the university and did a remarkable job of decentralizing administration, making for much stronger college and school units,” she said.
Similarly, Vice President and General Secretary Paul Burgett felt that “[Jackson] has successfully moved UR into the 21st century by reinforcing its great academic traditions, sharpening the focus on its strengths while identifying and implementing opportunities for future growth, and instituting a decentralized administrative structure that permits each school of the university to better control its own destiny.” He added that “UR is a much better place because of his leadership.”
While the decision might have surprised students, most administrators were not.
“It was not the surprise to me that it was to others. Like him, I believe that universities should have periodic changes in academic leadership, so this transition should be viewed as part of a healthy process of renewal,” Phelps said. These words echoed those of Jackson in his news release announcing his resignation.
“A successful tenure as an academic leader is likely to be measured in an eight to 12 year period. Thus, 11 years is ‘about right’ in terms of the normal cycle of modern presidential terms,” Jackson wrote.
Some students felt that Jackson’s term improved UR. “He seems to have done a good job. I’m sure he’ll be missed,” freshman Meghan Neall said. Others thought that Jackson’s return to UR after a one-year sabbatical showed his attachment to the university.
“It shows his commitment to the university,” sophomore Kat Schwartz said. “It’s admirable that he wants to teach and remain a part of the community.”
Green agreed, saying, “Let me put it this way – very few presidents make that kind of choice. That’s why it’s so great.”
Despite the praises heaped on Jackson by the faculty, some students felt it was exaggerated. As sophomore Kenny Thierer explained, “The only time I hear from him is once a year when he sends me a letter raising my tuition. So suffice it to say, I think he’s not that connected with the student body,” he said.
Students’ Association Senator and sophomore Nathaniel Powell also did not approve of Jackson’s conduct as president. “My main beef with him is his approach to the WRC [Worker’s Rights Consortium],” he said. “He came as close to lying as you can without actually lying. [Also], he’s very inaccessible to students.”
Not all current students realize the impact of many of Jackson’s achievements. For example, one of Jackson’s main improvements was to decentralize the major divisions of the university, such as the Eastman School of Music and the William E. Simon Graduate School of Business Administration, letting these components function with more freedom and efficiency.
In addition, Jackson combined the previously separated schools into the College of Arts, Sciences and Engineering to run as a smooth, single unit.
Other achievements include the Renaissance Plan, which significantly improved the quality of students attending UR, the endowment investment growth over the past decade and the initiatives taken at the Medical Center.
In addition, the multiple renovations of the Robert B. Goergen Athletic Center and Rush Rhees Library provided students with updated and efficient facilities.
On these achievements Asbury said, “As a result, I am working in and [the students] are attending a remarkably strong college environment with an inspiring curricular vision. This has been to benefit all of us in the College, especially the students, I believe,” she added.
In the end, SA President and senior Chris Calo deemed it important to look forward to Jackson’s successor.
“After 11 years, [Jackson] was able to accomplish all that he set out to,” Calo said. “On the other hand, it’s good to have change in his role and new ideas. I think he was right when he said it was to move on. In all, I think he did a great job.”
Phelps echoed his thoughts, saying, “While he’ll be sorely missed, I’m confident that the university will find a strong successor to the presidency and will continue to demonstrate the veracity of the university motto – Meliora.”
Madhur can be reached at