Presidential Search Advisory Committee Chairman Earl Lewis answered questions and listened to requests about the search for a new University president at a public forum during last night”s Michigan Student Assembly meeting. The forum was part of the committee”s effort to solicit input from students, faculty, alumni and staff at all three of the University”s campuses.
Lewis said the new president will have to be sensitive to the issues affecting the University.
“This is an institution where you have to have a thick skin and a vision for the future,” he said.
Whether the new president will be a defendent of affirmative action was one of the main topics discussed at the meeting. LSA junior Agnes Aleobua, a member of the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action and Integration and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary, said students will pressure the new president to boldly support the University”s policy.
“We need a leader who is firmly committed to the defense of affirmative action and the defense of minorities,” said Aleobua. “There isn”t a public institution that can claim to be a real institution that isn”t standing for that firmly.”
Third-year Law student Dave Boyle, who said he felt BAMN was too conservative, went one step further by urging the committee to end the University”s streak of selecting only white, male presidents.
“If we really are the leaders and the best if we really are about progress we need the most progressive and diverse leadership,” said Boyle.
“I find it very hard to believe there is not some woman, and of course people of color, who is capable to lead,” he said.
With regard to affirmative action, Lewis said the committee”s criteria will fall in line with what the regents want. He said an initial set of criteria the committee has developed include strong leadership and the continuation of the work of former University President Lee Bollinger including his affirmative action policy.
MSA President Matt Nolan said the committee needed to set criteria at the beginning of the search, and although affirmative action will be a factor in the decision process, all of the candidates” credentials will be evaluated.
“Anytime you have a public forum, that affects the process,” he said.
School of Social Work Rep. Aimee Coughlin said the meeting reiterated the student”s support for affirmative action.
“The students who spoke out in favor were much larger than those who spoke out against it,” she said.
Concern about the use of cheap labor by Nike, who produces the University”s apparel, was also voiced by LSA sophomore David Deeg.
“There is a large constituency of students that are concerned with the production of our apparel. I think it”s a matter of pride,” he said.
Additional issues concerning the presidential search included renovations to the Trotter House, tenure for black professors, communication between the new president and students, environmental policies and harassment of women.