Students influence the next phase of the presidential search


pres search

During an open forum held last week for the ongoing University of San Diego presidential search, students asked Associated Students president Dom Pera to help select a new university leader with more inclusive values. The forum’s intention was to gain student perspectives so that Pera can better represent the student needs when choosing the next university president.

During the forum, USD students expressed that USD lacks an emphasis on inclusivity. From diversity to campus geography, students want to make USD a more understanding community.

Some qualities for USD’s next president were not up for debate: The president will be a practicing Catholic, must uphold the university mission and possess the willingness to improve the university in any aspects that are necessary.

After establishing the must-haves for USD’s next president, students participating in the forum then discussed what they would like to see in their leader. Students overwhelmingly called for a president that will reflect their values and understand student life on campus.

During the presidential interview process, Pera will be representing the students. He explained to the concerned students that their input will play a role within the presidential search process.

“The student voice will not be the primary, guiding factor in the decision, but it is a very, very strong one,” Pera said. “That is why I am hosting this [forum] so that I can get that student voice and really influence that decision as best as possible, and in a way that reflects all of [students’] wants and needs.”

Pera sits on the presidential search committee, along with various officials in the university community, including members from the board of trustees, faculty and members of the university senate.

The presidential search profile, created by the committee, requires a president with many attributes, including leadership priorities, commitment to advancing academic excellence, inspiring USD and the San Diego community, and working toward diversity and inclusivity.

Chiefly concerned with making USD a comprehensive community, senior Tarez Lemmons expressed his hope that the next president will do a better job of including minorities in the university community.

“I would like a president that would be willing and able to engage the campus community,” Lemmons said. “To actually make [USD] inclusive for the African American, the black population on campus, and other populations as well, the Hispanic population and everyone that has been historically not listened to.”

Other students brought up additional issues of inclusiveness, including questioning whether the new president will have a voice in events such as the yearly drag show. Others questioned the president’s role in retaining students, referencing that the retention rate for freshmen entering in 2009 and graduating in four years was at 66 percent. Finally, students questioned how the next president will boost the sense of community at USD.

Pera explained that the continuation of controversial events, including the drag show, will be decided by the board of trustees and however much power they give to the next president. Freshman retention rates will be up to the president and whether it is determined to be a serious problem. The sense of community comes in the next president’s ability to inspire USD.

At the student forum, sophomore Charlotte Vitak expressed her hope that the president will focus on the university’s appearance. Vitak lamented that USD’s aesthetic beauty sometimes works against its sense of community. Vitak hopes the next president can fix this.

“Sometimes the perfection of campus really puts the pressure on students, ‘that everything around me is perfect, everything around me is like crisp cut’ that when people are walking they don’t use the grass,” Vitak said. “I am not saying make campus ugly; it’s just so constricting, that ascetic pressure.”

The comments and requests of students at the forum will be taken into consideration as Pera and other USD officials choose the next president. Pera explained that the president could essentially alter the direction of campus with the support of the board of trustees. The next president could add new buildings, organizations, clubs and policies to modify USD.

Ultimately, the next president will work for the entire USD community. Pera explained that the president will act as a link between the different bodies of campus.

“The role of the president is to serve as the liaison between the university community and the board of trustees, and so we need someone who is really going to connect us with each other,” Pera said.

During November, the presidential search committee will hold interviews for 10 applicants. The applicants are currently anonymous, as some may be jeopardizing their current positions in pursuit of the USD presidency. The next president will be appointed in spring 2015. Student input will be taken into consideration during the interview process, and will help narrow down the current candidates.