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AS takes new approach for presidential search

A Bellingham community member shares what he wants form a Western president on Wednesday, Nov. 4, at the public forum in Communications Facility 120. // Photo by Christina Becker
A Bellingham community member shares what he wants form a Western president on Wednesday, Nov. 4, at the public forum in Communications Facility 120. // Photo by Christina Becker

Instead of asking students to come to the Presidential Advisory Search Committee forum, the forum came to the students the morning of Wednesday, Nov. 4, through a change of venue.

About 15 students gave the PSAC input on what characteristics they wish to see in the university’s new president on the sixth floor of the Viking Union building. The forum was originally supposed to be held at Haggard Hall 153, but was moved after only one student attended the meeting on Monday, Nov. 2.

Students and some alumni were flagged down by members of the PSAC for free coffee, muffins and a discussion with the committee. Committee members began the talks by asking students questions about what they see as Western’s strengths, and what Western should focus on improving in the next five years.

The Committee will use this feedback to help narrow down the search process for potential presidential candidates. Conversations lasted anywhere from five to 20 minutes, and were mostly done in groups.

The first PSAC forum for students was held early in the morning on Monday, Nov. 2, in Fraser Hall 101. Only one student, senior Galen Herz, attended the open forum. Members of the committee talked to Herz for about 45 minutes, then discussed how to better connect with Western students.

Sue Sharpe, the chair of the PSAC and of Western’s Board of Trustees, felt that low attendance at Monday’s forum required action.

“We realized that when we did the first student forum and had such low attendance, we probably weren’t approaching it in the right way,” Sharpe said.

On Wednesday the committee made the decision to move the forum to the much more accessible Viking Union building. Members of the committee posted fliers notifying students of the room change early Wednesday morning.

Abby Ramos, the Associated Student Vice President of Diversity, said student participation in these forums is needed because they are usually enrolled in the school for much less time than faculty.

“Having these meetings set up for students to be able to give feedback about what works, what doesn’t work, and what they want to see is very important,” Ramos said.

Faculty tend to work at Western longer than students are enrolled, which means students have to speak up when they have the opportunity, Ramos said.

There were a few reasons why the first meeting could have had such a low turnout, Ramos said. Meetings held in the early morning or around dinner time could have conflicted with the schedules of students, and those who were available during this time could have been focusing on other events around campus.

“If this is student oriented, it needs to be student scheduled also,” Ramos said.

Increased participation in these meetings is vital to the PSAC before Friday, Nov. 13, Sharpe said.

“At that point the PSAC will meet to start putting together the position description based on all the input we’ve had over the last couple of weeks,” Sharpe said.

While the first forum didn’t see much student participation, students have been actively participating through email and online surveys, Sharpe said. The PSAC has seen around 500 responses from students who took the survey on their website, exceeding their expectations.

Open feedback forums have concluded, but the PSAC will continue to accept input from other avenues, including surveys and email responses available on Western’s website.


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