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First presidential search meeting lacks student input

The 15 members of the Presidential Search Advisory Committee met Monday, Nov. 2, with senior Galen Herz to discuss what characteristics students want to see in the new president. The conversation lasted 45 minutes.

One student attended the first public forum to hear student’s voices in search of the new University resident.

Galen Herz gives his opinion on who the new Western president should be to the Presidential Search Advisory Committee on Monday, Nov. 2, in Fraser Hall.  // Photo by Caleb Galbreath
Galen Herz gives his opinion on who the new Western president should be to the Presidential Search Advisory Committee on Monday, Nov. 2, in Fraser Hall. // Photo by Caleb Galbreath

Committee members represent various interest groups within Western’s campus including students, professors and trustees.

The forum asked participants three questions:

1. What should the new president achieve in the next three to five years?

2. What skills and characteristics should the new president have?

3. What are some points of pride you have in Western?

Members have already met for hours to discuss the search for a new president, Jan Greenwood said.

Greenwood is a consultant on the presidential search from Greenwood-Asher and Associates Inc. and has consulted for 2,000 universities.

Sue Sharpe, trustee and executive director of Chuckanut Health Foundation, serves as the committee chair.

The goal of the forums is to hear from the campus to see what student needs and desires are, Sharpe said. This will help direct how the position is advertised and set requirements for candidates.

The forums are scheduled to finish before Thanksgiving in an effort to maximize the time to advertise for the position and find candidates.

Members thought low attendance was due to the forum being held at 5 p.m. when many students are eating dinner and the forum did not offer food.

Committee member Tyler Tran, a graduate student in environmental science, said most graduate students do not know what the Associated Students does and are uninvolved.

Bcause Western is a primarily undergraduate institution, it creates a disconnect between undergraduate life and graduate life, Tran said.

“One of the challenges that our university faces is being able to integrate those,” Tran said.

Despite the lack of attendance, online participation has been high with 500 surveys completed, Sharpe said.

Greenwood said forums are rarely attended by students.

However, the committee brainstormed ways to better reach the student community, such as bringing the discussion to students in Red Square and reaching students through social media and emails.

Students may not have attended because they feel powerless in the bureaucratic structure of the university, Herz said. 

If the student government was more accessible to students, they would become more involved and it could be a vehicle for social change, Herz said. “We’re only in the system one to four years,” Herz said. “By the time we try to initiate any change, due to how slow the university moves, we will have already graduated.”

The next forum will be held at 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 4, in Haggard Hall 153.

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