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Monday, September 28, 2020

OPINION: Searching for Western’s New President

The futures of Western’s 15,000 students will soon be placed in the care of a new president, and it’s important to begin thinking of what to expect.

Western has 160 academic programs, more than 200 student clubs and a population that prides itself on diversity and forward thinking. In short, there’s a lot to consider.

Developing a connection with the university and its students will be vital for a new president. Walking the paths and hallways, talking to passing students and listening to their thoughts and concerns is how you take the pulse of a campus like Western.

Communication will be key, especially for a new president. Bruce Shepard has been leading Western since 2003 and has had that time to learn the climate of the campus and its students.

Some students are hoping to see more campus pride, others hope clubs will continue to receive the same amount of support and whether the new president will communicate well with students.

A TIME magazine article, “The Lessons of a Megalomaniac University President,” by Paul Campos discusses the dangers of letting someone with a money-making agenda into a seat of power within a university.

“Universities are not businesses, and university presidents are not CEOs. These institutions exist for reasons other than to maximize revenue and enrich their management class,” Campos said.

A new president should make adjustments according to the direction Western students want to go, not the other way around. Yes, people who are considered for the job typically have a large amount of previous experience and a vision for the school they’re entering.

That’s not a bad thing, but it shouldn’t be the only consideration. A new president should be willing to change their plans for the future based on what they discover when they begin to get to know the campus.

If a candidate had the vision to bring Western’s focus away from sustainability and onto athletics, chances are it would not go over well among the majority of students.

Communication isn’t the only thing a new president needs to consider. Students are all at Western to better themselves in the best ways possible.

To do that, we need access to the freedom to explore our potential and practice these new skills. The money students pay every year shows they’re serious about our education and that we expect to have the proper tools to succeed.

A new president should understand and appreciate that need. There’s only so much that can be learned in a classroom — first-hand experience is what many students benefit from the most when practicing their skills.

As the search continues to find the best candidate, it’s important for students to know their voice matters during the process. As members of the Western community, it’s up to students to stand up for what they want out of their education.

After all, what is a president if no one would vote for them?

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