Students missing in presidential selection process

By The Beacon | January 23, 2014 2:04am

On Saturday, UP students will find out whether Fr. Mark Poorman or Fr. Jim Lies will take over the University presidency this spring. But the students hardly know either candidate.

The process of choosing the next president has been largely collaborative. The Presidential Search Committee is made up of 14 people representing key groups on campus, including faculty, staff, administrators, Holy Cross priests and regents.

And even though only this small group had extensive meetings with Poorman and Lies, all members of these groups on campus were invited to open forums to freely ask questions to the candidates. All faculty and staff members were given the opportunity to fill out evaluation sheets regarding the strengths and weaknesses of each candidate.

But how many students were involved in the presidential search process? Six.

The administration invited select student leaders to meet with Poorman and Lies last week, but aside from those invited, students were barred from the process and had no opportunity to give input. The Beacon asked permission to attend these meetings but was denied.

The Presidential Search Committee did try to recruit students from several different communities on campus. There were RAs, student athletes and members of student government. But there is no way to represent all UP students’ concerns in six people.

According to ASUP Vice President Elvia Gaona, one of the student representatives who met with the presidential candidates, past presidential searches have been open to student input.

“In previous years, candidates would do an open forum (for students), like a fireside chat, but not very many students attended,” Gaona said.

But the fact that most students in the past did not attend forums for presidential candidates does not justify closing the process off to students who do care about giving their input in the process.

After all, UP exists for and is largely funded by its students. It is a mistake to let everyone except the majority of students give their input to the Board of Regents before they make their decision on who our next president is.

Because students have been largely ignored in the presidential search process, The Beacon hopes to present to the Board of Regents another student perspective to take into account before they decide who our next president will be:

First, our next president should be someone who is committed (not only in word, but also in action) to a policy of inclusion. Over the past year, UP has seen a more inclusive Nondiscrimination Policy approved, we’ve seen an increasing number of women in the upper echelon of the University’s staff and administration, and we’ve welcomed the most diverse class in the history of the University. Our next president should be committed to continuing this pattern of inclusivity.

Second, whoever the Board of Regents elects to the presidency should show a passion for UP. He should be someone who loves the city of Portland and the surrounding area, someone who has a deep understanding not only of the Holy Cross commitment to an excellent education, but also of the specific circumstances at the University of Portland.

Lastly, our next president must be someone who cares what students have to say. He must recognize that as important as it is to maintain a positive image for the University, and as much as UP must have good relationships with its donors, students ought to come first.

Even if students have little to no say in who our next president is, the president ought to be engaged with us once he takes office.