The Presidential Search Committee of Memorial University is looking for public input as it develops a profile that will guide the selection and appointment of the institutions next president.
Which is lovely. After all, I haven't exactly been quiet about MUN, the Board of Regents and the fiasco that has been the presidential search. So I welcome the chance.
And you can tell that Alumni Affairs and the Presidential Search Committee really care about public input, as they sent this email out on May 13 with a deadline of May 21, 2009, a whopping eight days. Oh yes, and there was the Victoria Day weekend in there as well. Clearly this gives the general public lots of time to articulate what they're looking for in a university president.
I swear to God, I wonder if it's a requirement to be a member of MUN's public relations department to be smacked in the head hard enough to suffer a concussion and minor brain damage.
Anyway, I have given this some thought and this is what I've decided to submit to MUN. Should you wish to send your own suggestions to MUN, in the hours you have left, I strongly encourage you to do it. You can go here for more information on what they're looking for and where to send it.
This is what I plan to submit, although I may make a few changes between now and then.
Dear Committee Members;
I would like to take this opportunity to offer suggestions on the qualities need for the Memorial University of Newfoundland's next president. No doubt you are under considerable scrutiny and pressure in your deliberations. I can only hope that after the significant mistakes already made in this process that you can find a candidate that can not only restore the public's confidence, but also reassure the academic world that the university remains one of the finest institutions in the country.
This will not be easy work and I do not envy your task. But never in the history of MUN has it been more important that you select the right person for this job. To do otherwise, to fall prey once more to political interference, risks damaging the university, perhaps irreparably.
What challenges and opportunities will this new president face? He or she will face outside political pressures. This has always been an issue for university presidents, but moreso now than any other time in recent history. The need for a strong president, unafraid to stand up to outside political pressure and defend the best interests of the university has never been more vital. The president is there to represent the interests of students, faculty and staff and it is important that when outside agencies threaten their interests, that the president not only defends them, but is willing to do it vocally. To call attention to the problem if needed.
Universities are places of debate and discussion. Too often in the past issues important to the future of the university have not had the level of public debate needed. Debate is a good thing. The new president should embrace this in all of his or her dealings.
What are the characteristics of the new president? They are many. The courage to stand up for the university. The willingness to do what is right, not merely just expedient. An open-mindedness and curiosity that should come with anyone who works in the service of the university. The compassion to understand that university is often a challenge for students and to make it the best kind of challenge. One where they grow and learn, and not become frustrated and embittered by things such as student loans and housing. The president should be accessible to students, and not a distant figure viewed as someone completely uncaring about student problems and issues.
I should not that this person need not be from Newfoundland. At this point, the best person is needed for the job, not the best Newfoundlander. The university needs the best, regardless of where they were born.
This would not be an easy person to find under the best of circumstances. And given the damage done to the university's reputation in recent years, with political interference, academic fraud issues and lawsuits, the university has never been in a more fragile state. It is crucial to find the right person to fill this position. The right person to make the university a better place, and not a person that is right for an outsider's political agenda.
Find the best person for the job and help start the rejuvenation of a critical institution in Newfoundland. We're all counting on you.
1. New York state of mind - Billy Joel
2. At last - Neko Case
3. Sulky girl - Elvis Costello
4. The boulevard of broken dreams - Diana Krall
5. Walter Reed - Michael Penn*