Last Tuesday night, the Presidential Search Committee held a student forum at which students discussed topics relevant to the search for the next Lawrence president. The discussion, led mostly by student representatives Peter Gillette and Sara Compas, had a strong turnout according to Gillette. He notes, “I was more than delighted with the turnout Tuesday night. I have to say, Sara [Compas] worked really hard to put the event together.”
Robert Buchanan, the head of the Presidential Search Committee and Jeff Riester, chair of the Board of Trustees, were also in attendance.
The forum attempted to gauge student opinion through four main questions. Riester pointed out that the questions being asked at this forum were also presented to alumni, faculty and staff.
The first question that was posed to the students was what they considered to be the four or five most significant challenges that will face Lawrence’s next president.
A majority of the students in attendance were concerned that the sports program requires more attention. One student voiced her concern, stating that if Lawrence wished to continue to attract good athletes, the facilities would need to be improved. The baseball field and the weight room were specifically cited as trouble areas.
Other comments concerned the review of the tenure process and parking, as well as bringing diversity, both racially and economically, to the campus.
The second question asked what personal and professional characteristics students felt would be required to perform effectively as president. One student responded that amidst the legal actions the University is facing regarding the fraternity situation that the president should have some legal background. Others considered a working knowledge of business as vital.
Several students also stressed strong public speaking skills, prior experience in academia, approachability, and a high level of involvement in campus events as important characteristics for the next president to possess.
The panel then discussed what would attract a presidential candidate to Lawrence. Among the responses were the high quality of the student body and faculty, the conservatory, and the president’s residence. One student also mentioned that Lawrence was currently undergoing some potentially significant changes that would allow the new president to immediately demonstrate his or her leadership abilities.
Lastly, the students were asked if they had concerns or questions regarding the search process, and, specifically, if they considered an ethnically diverse field of candidates to be necessary. To this, one student responded that Lawrence students simply wanted the best person for the job.
Gillette seemed pleased with the results of the forum stating, “Not only were there so many helpful comments, but there was enough diversity and enough disagreement within the students present to present a pretty clear picture of Lawrence’s challenges and potential futures.