The appointment of a new University president is an incredible opportunity for the campus community to find a leader who will shape its next 25 years, much as current President Robert A. Corrigan oversaw a vast expansion of the school during his tenure.
Unfortunately, the CSU trustees took a giant leap back in both transparency and community involvement when they recently decided that campus visits would be optional for applicants to this crucial role.
The detachment between students and their soon to be departing president has grown through the years. Most students on campus wouldn’t recognize President Corrigan if he was in line behind them at Café 101. For those who do know what our president looks like, seeing him on campus is a rare and remarkable event. Sort of like a Bigfoot sighting.
We, as students, need an accountable and integrated president. The past year saw social movements like Occupy shine a spotlight onto the rift between the governed and the governors at SF State and beyond. Never before have students wanted so earnestly to discuss things like tuition hikes with administration members. Even Corrigan saw this and met with students during a recent demonstration. Still, the Board of Trustees doesn’t see a public campus visit as necessary.
In notes from the September meeting when the measure was passed, committee members stated that past experience shows that qualified candidates sometimes lose interest when they are required to make a campus visit. These visits have not been just a casual stroll through campus, but public visits where they make their interest in becoming president known. How qualified is a candidate who stalls at the most minor requirement for transparency?
Public disclosure is a common practice at SF State. When hiring or promoting to tenure-track positions, many departments require finalists for the job to present to classrooms and give sample lectures. If faculty must be this open in their desire to become a member of the community, why not their institutional leader?
As a public university there is a certain expectation of transparency in hiring practices. This should extend to the presidential search.
The search for a new president is an opportunity for a new chapter in collaboration between students, faculty and administration. This opportunity does not come often. Instead of dropping the requirement for campus visits, the Board of Trustees should place a new importance on the president’s involvement with campus life.
No one can reasonably be expected to lead a community they have never met.