The search for a new University president lacked a student representative on the search committee. Now, the search is over and it seems that for University President-elect Mark Schlissel, improving communication with students will be a top priority.
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The University’s Board of Regents announced in a special meeting Friday morning that Schlissel, Brown University’s Provost, will succeed Mary Sue Coleman as the University’s 14th president.
Central Student Government President Michael Proppe, a Business senior, said he was proud of the work students contributed to the selection process, despite the absence of a student voice on the search committee. In lieu of direct representation, he urged student participation in community forums held by the regents as well as CSG’s campus life survey.
Thursday night, the eve of the announcement of Schlissel's selection, Proppe outlined three major issues he hoped the new president would strive to address: diversity on campus; education affordability and the incorporation of student voice into major University decisions.
“When I heard him speak, I wondered if he had been dropping in on some of my phone calls,” Proppe said after the press conference Friday. “He was echoing all of those themes, which was exactly what I wanted to hear.”
Proppe added that he was enthusiastic about Schlissel’s “student-centric” approach, which he was known for at Brown. Todd Harris, president of Brown’s Undergraduate Council of Students, said working with students was one of Schlissel’s strengths.
Harris said Schlissel helped the council acquire representation in discussions about Brown’s 12-year strategic plan, allowing student delegates to voice concerns and contribute ideas. Schlissel was also the chair of the University Resource Committee, with which the student government worked to increase funding for student activities.
CSG Vice President Bobby Dishell, a Public Policy junior, said he is optimistic for Schlissel’s approach to decision-making.
“(Schlissel) mentioned working with students at every opportunity that he had,” Dishell said of Friday’s press conference with the president-elect. “That’s something that we’re very much looking forward to, and every student should be very excited about.”
Rackham Student Government President Phil Saccone, a Rackham student, said increased communication between the administration and student body is necessary — especially in light of recent friction over the construction of new graduate residences donated by Charles Munger. The project has faced opposition from students who criticized the hall’s design and cost.
“It comes off occasionally like sometimes student input seems like an afterthought,” Saccone said. “One thing I would say to the new president is to go out and touch base with the real pulse of the University, and that’s the students.”
Proppe agreed with Saccone, identifying the football seating policy as another topic that has created conflict between students and the administration. He said meetings between CSG executives and the Athletic Department about improving student ticketing policies have helped identify the need for student input in University decisions.
“They have seen, ‘If we consult with students before we do something, we will have a better output for it,’” Proppe said. “When the students can work with the administration in a positive way to create win-win situations, and when the students demonstrate that we can do that, we see the student voice grow a little bit more.”
Proppe alluded to potential “good news” in the coming months that will help to increase student representation at the administrative level and said he hopes that Schlissel would facilitate this kind of growth.
In Schlissel’s first steps toward outreach in the student community, he held a meet-and-greet for 30 to 40 students following Friday morning’s press conference. To cap off the day’s events, some students showed him how to spin the Cube — a daily pre-work tradition of Coleman’s.
For Schlissel, there will be many more spins to come.