Should the next University president focus on lowering the cost of attendance? Launching environmental sustainability initiatives? Being personally accessible to students? Increasing diversity on campus? Where should the next president focus their fundraising efforts? What can the next president do to improve the student experience at the University? What aspects of the student experience should the next president preserve? These are questions the University’s Board of Regents need to answer as they search for President Mary Sue Coleman’s successor. Without a student in the room as the board reviews candidates, we need to take it upon ourselves to give them the answers from outside the room — and we need to speak loudly.
At the July meeting of the Board of Regents, the regents announced the formation of a Presidential Search Advisory Committee, which is made up of the eight regents and seven members of the faculty. The makeup of this committee represented a notable departure from the last search that began in 2001, which had an advisory committee that included representatives from the faculty, staff, Dearborn and Flint campuses and most importantly, two students.
Many, including myself, expressed disappointment at the regents’ decision to leave student representatives off the Search Advisory Committee. After several conversations with members of the Board of Regents over the summer, it became clear the decision would not be reversed. This is concerning.
Students are very important stakeholders in the future of the University of Michigan — perhaps the most important stakeholders. Without students, there is no University. We live here. We learn here. We will graduate from here and carry the experiences and memories from Michigan with us for the rest of our lives. The next president will play a pivotal role in shaping the student experience. If the next president fails, the University fails.
The Central Student Government recognized this, and the University Council —a body made up of heads of each school’s student governments — voted on Sept. 9 to form a student committee tasked with seeking and providing a student perspective to the regents and the Presidential Search Advisory Committee through the search and eventual transition process.
This student committee, made up of a diverse group of student leaders from some of the largest student organizations on campus, has been working diligently to solicit feedback from students. The committee put together a survey, which was sent out Sept. 18, that will help get a pulse on what qualities, experiences and values students desire in the next president. There’s still time to take this survey and make your voice heard.
Additionally, the Board of Regents and the Central Student Government will be co-hosting a forum for students to give our input as the regents search for the next leader of Michigan. Students will have the opportunity to give remarks to the regents on what qualities you seek in the next president.
From my conversations with the regents, it’s clear they take the input they get at these forums very seriously. One remark you make could sway the discussion in a new direction as the regents assess the qualities of finalist candidates. You can sign up to speak through the link provided in the e-mail all students received from me last week. Even if you don’t want to speak, your attendance speaks volumes to the importance the student body places on this search.
We need a president who will value the concerns students have. But the first step in that process is making sure the regents understand what our concerns are. We all get to play a key role in selecting the next president who will shape the future of Michigan. Let’s take advantage of this opportunity. Let the regents know just how seriously they need to take our voices. It’s the only way the next leader of the Leaders and Best can succeed.
Michael Proppe is a Business senior and the president of the Central Student Government.