Presidential town hall encourages student input

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Dennis Barden, senior partner with the Witt/ Kieffer search firm, leads the discussion at the presidential search town hall. Photo by Gabriela McCausland.

On Wednesday, August 29, the University of Dallas presidential search committee held a town hall meeting in Haggar Cafe with the purpose of opening up to the student body a discussion regarding the selection of the university’s ninth president. The meeting especially voiced students’ preference for a president to uphold the Catholic foundation of the school and the UD Core curriculum.

Dennis Barden, senior partner with the Witt/Kieffer search firm, led the discussion, and several members of UD’s presidential search committee were also present.

Barden stated that the students’ input from the town hall will be compiled to create a profile the committee will use to evaluate candidates.

“It becomes a rubric,” Bardon explained. “It becomes a standard against which the committee will judge the worthiness of the candidates.”

In the subsequent hour, nearly two dozen students from a crowd of fifty attendees took turns at an open microphone to voice perspectives on the needs of the school and its community, as well as the ideals of the institution.

Students expressed strong favor for a president who would preserve the Catholic identity of the school. A number of comments also requested a president who would uphold the religious life and seminarian presence on the campus.

Students shared the need for a president to possess a love of the liberal arts in order to support the Core curriculum of UD, perhaps even someone who was personally shaped by it.

More than half a dozen graduate students rose to ask for a president with an understanding and respect for UD’s graduate students, one who would meet graduate students’ needs for living stipends, and understand the importance of the IPS students and the program.

Student Government president Clare Slattery pressed for a leader who would create a system of mutual support between president and students, especially regarding financial support.

Slattery advocated for a leader who will not only represent UD well to the world, but also represent UD to itself.

“We need a president who knows UD and knows how to speak to UD,” Slattery said.

She said that in the past, presidents have tried to “sell” UD to current students.

“We don’t need to be sold to UD,” said Slattery.

Senior Virginia Misko said that a future president backed by the university’s faculty would also likely have the backing of the student body, who look up to their professors and respect their opinions.

Senior Clare Basil advocated for a president invested in the UD community itself, expressing a desire to see those in positions of leadership better engaged in what the students are passionate about, such as daily Mass and extracurriculars.

“It’s difficult to see if senior administration values what students most value,” said Basil.

The presidential search website is where the committee will publish updates, and members of the UD community can contribute input and nominations.The website is at https://udallas.edu/about/administration/presidential-search/index.php.

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