What we should look for in a president

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Senior Genevieve Frank speaks up at the student forum held in the Haggar cafeteria. Photo by Gabriela McCausland.

We all hope that the University of Dallas’ next president will be faithful to our ideals, while at the same time bringing practical skills.

There are many trustees, alumni, professors and other well-qualified leaders on the presidential search committee whom I trust to choose our next president.

Specifically, though, I appreciate that our student government president, senior Clare Slattery, is on the committee. This indicates that the committee values students’ views on selecting the next president.

The forum held in the cafeteria on Aug. 29 was the perfect opportunity for students to open up a conversation about what they want to see in our future university president.

When we reflect on Thomas Keefe’s presidency, some students endorse his progressive approach to the university while others object that he did not hold to tradition as they would have liked.

When looking at characteristics and qualifications of a president who would best fit our university, we need to ask ourselves which qualities are ideal, which are essential and which are both. If we take the crude metaphor of a venn diagram, I believe that the crossover between the ideal and the essential is what our university needs.

It is both ideal and essential that our president supports and respects the Core and is Catholic. Both are necessary qualities of the UD identity, and I would argue that our president must not only be professionally familiar with our statement as a university, but should also be personally invested in what we stand for as a community.

But, alas, simply supporting our mission is not enough. If being enthusiastically Catholic and loving the Core were the only qualifications for a president, then we have roughly 1300 candidates on our hands.

In spring 2017, Keefe’s New College plan aimed to bring in revenue for the school at the expense of the Core. It was not well received. In that situation, Keefe seemed to decide that money was essential while the Core was only ideal.

We need someone to not only respect UD’s identity, but also to be able to sell it. We need someone who will bring in funds for our school. It is crucial that our president is experienced in both business and marketing.

Too many times have I called prospective students for the Office of Admissions only for them to say to me, “Wait, this isn’t University of Texas at Dallas?”

It is essential that our future president has the ability and experience to make a product known. He or she should recognize the value of a liberal arts education and know how to market it. The more people who know about UD, the more applicants we will receive, which will increase selectivity in the admissions process.

The new president should prioritize public relations and marketing rather than internal administration. Rather than having the final say in every decision, the president should leave the academics to Dr. Jonathan Sanford and the administration to Dr. John Plotts. Both have shown they are more than able to lead us.

Because I was a part of orientation, I had the opportunity to hear Plotts give the presidential address to the freshmen. He spoke beautifully. His address was spiritual, emotional and personable. He connected well with the students. In my opinion, the freshmen did not miss out on Keefe’s “sword speech.”

A president at UD, ideally, should be able to connect with students. However, if he or she manages to support our school financially and academically, I do not care if he or she gives me a high-five on the Mall.

I understand that this is ideal in theory but more difficult in practice. I also understand that not everyone is going to agree with the qualities about which I have written. I invite the UD student body to consider the direction our university is headed and how we want to be represented.

I encourage any responses or comments on the presidential search to email The University News. As students, we should have an input in the direction of our university, and I invite you to voice yours.

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