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The Search Advisory Committee for a new Vice President of Student Life, appointed by the University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel, held the first of two town hall meetings Monday evening. Around 20 students and community members attended the event which was intended to gauge specific areas of student interest when selecting a shortlist of candidates to recommend to Schlissel. E. Royster Harper, the current Vice President of Student Life, will retire in January.
The town hall, which was held in a question and answer format, gave an opportunity for the committee to hear student opinions about the vision, experience and values they want the new vice president to uphold. Students at the meeting also expressed a desire for more one-on-one interaction between communities of color and the VP of Student Life.
LSA sophomore Ronnie Alvarez said he hopes for a candidate who will listen to and understand different cultures, specifically mentioning the Latinx community.
“I think someone who has culture empathy and has experience working with the Latinx community would be a quality that’ll be a good fit for the new VP,” Alvarez said.
The committee addressed questions about ensuring the pool of candidates was diverse, how different cultural voices would be heard and how decisions would be made with a student-centric focus.
Alec Gallimore, the Search Advisory Committee Chair and Dean of the College of Engineering, reflected on the importance of student opinion in the search for the new VP.
“We knew this person has to be student-focused in a big way, and the town hall reinforced it,” Gallimore said. “It is important to hear the diverse points of view that represent where our students are coming from.”
LSA senior Ashley Soto also brought up issues important to the Latinx community and echoed Gallimore’s ideas regarding the importance of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.
“A major takeaway is to focus on DEI,” Soto said. “I saw a lot of student leaders here who are a part of marginalized communities on campus asking questions to make sure we are prioritized as we have been trying to be on campus for a while.”
Robert Sellers, Vice Provost for Equity and Inclusion and a member of the committee, said he was less concerned about a candidate’s vision and more concerned about their experience and ability to grow in the U-M community.
LSA sophomore Ryan Perry said the new VP should be able to actively engage with, care about and impact the U-M community as Dr. Harper did.
“Although it was unclear what the process would be, it sounds like the committee cares about the outcome and are being as transparent as they can be from their end to make student life on campus better,” Perry said.
The committee guaranteed the issues voiced in the town hall will be of high priority as the selection process is underway.
“We look forward to talking to as many students as we can to guide us in making this important decision for our community,” Gallimore said.
The second public town hall, scheduled for Oct. 23 from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. will be held in Palmer Commons. Additional meetings may be conducted with specific student groups. The selection process will be confidential until Schlissel makes his recommendation to the Board of Regents.