Students seek accessible leader
By Jared Blank
The same message was repeated by students throughout the Regents' public forum last Monday night in the Michigan Union: Pick a president who will be open and accessible to students and will continue President James J. Duderstadt's commitment to diversity on campus.
Michigan Student Assembly President Flint Wainess addressed the difficulty of finding a president who will suit everyone's criteria. "We want a university president who is simultaneously scholar, administrator, politician and colleague. We want a president who will raise record amounts of money, yet we want a university president who is easily accessible, one that we'll run into outside of Borders who will have a few minutes just to sit on the sidewalk and talk about the future of the University. We want a president who will figure out how to lower tuition, yet we want a president who will expand our student services; we want a president who will lead and make tough choices, but we don't want a president who will govern without the consent of the governed."
Matthew Robison, an LS&A senior, told the Regents of the importance of choosing a leader who will further Duderstadt's success with achieving increased diversity on campus.
"The University of Michigan is essentially a laboratory society, and I would like to see a president who values diversity and makes this explicit, and has plans to address not only racial inequality, but inequality based on gender and sexual orientation, among other things. We've come a long way, but we're not done," he said.
Representing the Center for the Education of Women, LS&A senior Laura Shoemaker urged the Regents to continue Duderstadt's strides toward promoting the success of women of diverse backgrounds on campus.
In addition to the continued support of the Agenda for Women and the Michigan Mandate, Shoemaker asked the Regents to consider candidates "who will be committed to carry on President Duderstadt's task forces against violence of all sorts. All of the individuals involved in these measures have worked diligently to start to create positive change in the University community. It is imperative that their work be allowed to continue.
"We must seek an individual who not merely supports these efforts but has demonstrated success in understanding and supporting the issues of women," she concluded.
The desire for a president who is accessible to students was expressed by Stacia Fejedelem, president of the Residence Hall Association. Fejedelem said that while it was difficult to sum up the needs of the 9,000 students living in residence halls, many have expressed to her that the new president must be "someone who is visible to the students. All students need to feel that they are welcome in decisions that are made in this university and are sought out by the president to be a part of decisions that are made."
The sentiment that students should be a part of the presidential search process was echoed by many of the 15 speakers.
While only 50 students attended the forum, Wainess was pleased with the turnout. "I'm pleased---the crowd dwarfs the amount of students who usually attend Regents' meetings," he said. "Clearly there is wide student interest in making their voice heard." Wainess cited the upcoming finals week as a reason for low attendance. "There are a hundred times as many people in Angell Hall (computing center) right now," he added.