With the announcement of University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler’s decision to resign next year, the University system can determine what kind of leadership we want to see at our institution throughout the upcoming years. As the Minnesota Daily earlier reported, many students have a desire to be included more heavily in the process of electing a new president. During the last presidential search, the University only had one student — someone from the Minnesota Student Association —on the search committee.
There needs to be more representation of student voices in the University’s presidential search process, as is already seen in other Big Ten systems, like Iowa, Wisconsin and Nebraska. We should ensure we are gathering a diverse range of student voices. This should include representatives from each campus, student government leaders and both undergraduate and graduate students. Not only should students be involved the search for a new president, but there should be student representatives appointed by the University to the hiring panel and involved throughout the entire process of searching for the new president. Additionally, MSA, Professional Student Government and the Council of Graduate Students should be allowed to create a panel with representatives from each college within the University to gather a wide range of perspectives.
Diversity of opinion should be a priority for the University during this upcoming presidential search. More will need to be done to survey and gauge the opinions of the general student population in terms of what they want to see in a president. Students groups and teams should be consulted about their wants and needs so representatives can take their voices into account while representing the viewpoint of the general student population.
It’s crucial for there to be an array of student representatives. No one student can stand in for all the perspectives at the University system. There are layers of diversity across our campuses, and our president should reflect this. Our school has had 16 presidents — all white, all male. Seventy percent of college presidents are men and over 80 percent are white, according to the American College President Study 2016. In contrast, only 48.3 percent of the Twin Cities university population is male, and 68 percent is white.
This process only happens once a decade or so. It’s important we give students a chance to have a say in what kind of school they want to attend, the values they want to encourage and the future they want our leadership to be working toward. The hiring process should be generally more democratic; this includes gauging the opinions of the faculty and staff during the search and election process. This way, we might see a change in the kind of leadership we see at the University, as well as a change toward which everyone contributed their thoughts and opinions.
Instead of this process happening behind closed doors in the hands of a few elite members of the University, we can open it up and prove a commitment to valuing the diverse voices of the students, faculty and staff at our institution. While our country at large is grappling with exclusionary attitudes and elitist dealings, higher education should commit to the opposite. What we need the most right now is inclusive change and the ability to hire a new University of Minnesota president allows us this opportunity. Let’s not squander it.