The news of University of Iowa president Mary Sue Coleman’s surprise election to the University of Michigan presidency gave student groups a chance to think about their future collaboration with the administration.
Michigan Student Assembly President Sarah Boot said she looks forward to working with Coleman. Boot attended yesterday’s press conference and said that Coleman appeared smart, energetic and warm during her speech.
“Her credentials seem to fall in line really well with the University,” Boot said. “She has a Ph.D. in biochemistry, which I think will be really helpful with the Life Sciences Initiative.”
The regents’ choice also received support from the Greek community on campus. Joel Winston, president of the Interfraternity Council, said the Presidential Search Advisory Committee was a competent group that chose the best available candidate.
“From everything I’ve come to learn about (Coleman), she’s an excellent choice,” Winston said.
While Iowa’s fraternities do not allow alcohol at parties, Winston does not anticipate any conflict between the Greek community and Coleman’s administration.
“Alcohol-free was an initiative undertaken by the Greek community at the University of Iowa after an alcohol related death of a Greek student,” Winston said.
“She understands the Greek community is vital part of undergraduate experience. We have similar policies to Iowa, but not to the extent of being dry. We try to do everything we can to make social events as safe as possible,” Winston added.
Students were not expecting the University’s 13th president to be a female and were surprised by Coleman’s election.
Boot said she expects Coleman will serve as a role model for female students.
“I think it’s really exciting we finally have a woman president,” Boot said. “I think it sends a message that the University takes diversity seriously at all levels.”
Coleman is well-known at Iowa for her monthly forums and weekly radio talks.
Both Winston and Boot said they consider openness a necessary quality in a University president.
“It’s excellent for students. It shows something about the president we bring in,” Winston said.
Winston also said interim President B. Joseph White took the time to talk to students as well, using direct input from students to help shape the future of the University.
Boot said she thinks Coleman’s work on diversity task forces and as a member of the National Collegiate Athletic Association is also good preparation for her presidency at the University.
“It’s comforting to know she’s already been president of a Big Ten school,” Boot said. “She can improve herself as president here.”
Several memebers of Students Organizing for Labor and Economic Equality said they also feel Coleman’s previous experience is an important asset.
“From what I understand, the University of Iowa dealt very similarly with labor standards in the collegiate apparel industry as the University of Michigan has,” SOLE steering committee member Jackie Bray said.
Bray added that she hopes Coleman will work to improve administrative relationships with student organizations.
“President Coleman is going to have to understand that the University of Michigan is a leader in the anti-sweatshop movement and students will not tolerate anything less from this new administration,” Bray said. “At one time this year, five sets of workers were working without contracts and we fully expect President Coleman to ensure that doesn’t happen again.”
With White’s upcoming departure from the position, Coleman’s presidency will mark a new era for the University.
“It’s sad to see (White) go but I’m excited to work with Coleman. I would say it’s bittersweet,” Boot said.