In 2002 — the last time a search for a new University president occurred — the Presidential Search Committee consisted of 10 faculty members, one student, an alumnus and four other stakeholders. With University President Mary Sue Coleman stepping down in July 2014, the University embarks on a new search headed up by the Board of Regents along with eight faculty members working to choose her successor — without a single student on the committee. While the committee has invited students to participate in various forums over the next few months, at least one seat should have been reserved for a student on the committee. At the very least, students deserve an explanation for the changes in policy during this presidential search.
Matt Nolan, the former Michigan Student Assembly president — now called Central Student Government — who held one of the two student seats in the former committee, said that the inability to reach a fair compromise for student input this time around deserves an explanation. “Whether you agree with the regents’ decision or not, I do think it is a fair question to ask the regents why it is different this time. Explaining that rationale could go a long way.” Nolan is correct; the student body does deserve an explanation.
Students should have a tangible voice in this process. The University recognized this in 2002. However, this year, eight seats have been given to regents and eight to high-level staff. Since the regents have decided to change the makeup of the committee substantially from the previous search, it should be far from controversial or groundbreaking that another seat be given to students.
This lack of input is just one instance of the administration making important decisions that greatly affect students without consulting the student body. The recent controversial change to a general-admission policy to the Big House for football games was done similarly, without input from the Central Student Government. The move is tremendously unpopular with students, and a petition on the CSG website garnered 2,600 signatures within 12 hours.
Along with planning forums for student involvement, the committee is also accepting public nominations for president at the email UMich.President@russellreynolds.com. While students should participate through these avenues, it’s clear these initiatives are an empty gesture to appease students and does not give them their due.
Having been denied a seat in the committee, students must seek other ways of making their voice heard. The public forum dates have now been announced for the search committee, the first of which is to be held at the Ann Arbor campus on Sept. 17. At the forums, students must express disappointment at not being given adequate representation along with voicing their opinion. The president is vital to a school, and students must care about the selection. Now it’s up to students to pressure the administration and vocalize their concerns so the next time around, students will be given the voice they should always be guaranteed.