In 154 years, the UW has had 33 presidents. Following the departure of Michael Young in March, the university is searching for its 34th.
One of four planned public forums was held Monday, in which students were allowed to voice their opinions and desires to the Board of Regents.
“I think a new president is no easy task,” said Bill Ayer, the chair of the Board of Regents, “but it provides us the opportunity to assess where we are and where we want to be.”
Kenyon Chan, the appointed chair of the Presidential Search Advisory Committee, led the discussion. He was previously a chancellor at UW Bothell and interim chancellor at UW Tacoma.
The forum pivoted around three questions: What are people feeling about where the university is now; what are some opportunities and challenges the university faces; and what are the characteristics of the next leader given those things?
Michael Moynihan, a UW senior, prefaced his commentary with the fact he is one of the leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement on campus.
He said that when the members of the movement began looking at the UW’s demographics, they expected the university to be more diverse than it was.
“I wasn’t as proud of this institution as I was,” Moynihan said.
In addition to the impact of the Black Lives Matter movement, Moynihan said his status as a history major has also shaped his perspective.
“When I look back on revolutions throughout history, they don’t just go away,” he said. “This tells me we’re going to be dealing with it for a long time.”
He said his ideal president would address these issues as they relate to the greater campus community.
“I think honor is a very, very good characteristic for who’s going to run an institution; balance, valor, the ability to stand up to ridicule and listen and respond with integrity, dignity, pride, and with the interests that everyone else represents,” Moynihan said. “I’m here to talk on behalf of a president who I’ve watched exhibit those characteristics.”
He was talking about UW Interim President Ana Mari Cauce, who Moynihan said met with Black Lives Matter protesters soon after the walk-out this past February.
Moynihan wasn’t the only student who spoke in support of Cauce.
“Another area that she’s really good at: being accessible on Twitter and Facebook,” said Abby Kozyra, the ASUW’s communications director. “I think it’s really savvy of her to be open on those platforms.”
While every student had their own unique commentary, almost every speaker brought up the need for student accessibility.
“When I first came — and I came as an early-entrance student — I wasn’t that much in touch with the administration,” said Forrest Taylor, a junior majoring in Law, Societies, & Justice. “So when Ana Mari was selected as interim president, I was kind of surprised because I felt like I was friends with her from before and I don’t even know how I started talking to her. It just kind of happened. And that was never a relationship that I thought I could have with administration before.”
The board also consulted with graduate students in a separate session Monday evening.
Alice Popejoy, president of Graduate and Professional Student Senate (GPSS), said that the university needs to catch up in terms of child care and payment.
“If the university was founded by women, you wouldn’t have that problem,” Popejoy said. “Not to be glib, but if you could find someone with the characteristics of Ana Mari, that would be ideal.”
Jen Carroll, a doctoral candidate in anthropology who has been an instructor at the UW for approximately 20 quarters, also brought up issues surrounding student parents.
“They have the largest number of unannounced absences, illnesses … it’s nothing to do with their capabilities,” Carroll said. “What I find most alarming, is a complete failure to self-advocate and I take that as the internalization of absolute abandonment of accommodation at a university. I would love to see someone who can understand that this is fundamentally a diversity and access issue at the university.”
Popejoy asked if the presidential selection process was decided to be open, closed, or modified.
The Board of Regents and their search consultants have yet to decide, according to Ayer.
Chan said, currently, they are in phase one of the presidential search, which he calls the “consultation phase.” In this phase the board will continue to receive input from the campus community.
This phase will additionally culminate in the production of a case statement, which will describe the university and the kind of leader they’re looking for.
The document functions as an informational brochure, letting potential candidates see what role they would be expected to fill and what the university has to offer.
This will be followed by the recruitment phase, where candidates for the presidency will be cultivated.
Finally, the search committee will review portfolios and conduct more intense interviews with the finalists. Ultimately, the search committee will recommend four candidates to the Board of Regents.
Chan estimated that a president will be installed in January 2016.