On July 1, Joan Gabel became the University’s 17th president. Historically held by men, Gabel is the first woman to hold the University’s highest office since it was founded in 1851, 168-years ago.
Already rewriting history, Gabel should continue this forward momentum by seizing the opportunity to lay the groundwork early on in her presidency that will forge a path forward of accessibility, transparency, and productive conversation that leads to action.
Last week, the Daily Editorial Board discussed the need to acknowledge the hard work and effort put forth by University professors. By that same token, it’s equally important to recognize the human side of the University’s president, and the ways in which we all play a part to inform Gabel of who we are and what we care about.
If ever there was a time for Gabel to create a responsible framework that she will rely on, defer to and operate within, that time is now at the beginning of her presidency. It’s important to realize that our University’s highest office is elastic and malleable, as much as we might think it is not.
This means that Gabel’s constituency — the University’s students, faculty, and staff — have a lot of say in conveying to Gabel what is collectively and individually on our minds, as well as over time molding the evolution of her trajectory and legacy.
Being accessible and transparent
In an article posted on the University’s website, Gabel said that, based on her past experiences, she is positioned “uniquely to listen carefully, meet challenges and identify opportunities to collaborate with students, faculty, staff, alumni, donors, policymakers and others to make this great University even greater.”
What we don’t yet know is the extent to which Gabel will meet or exceed her own and University standards. What we do know is that we have at least a five-year window to support, or critique, Gabel and her initiatives. In return, it is Gabel’s responsibility to remain accessible and transparent to her constituency -- to stay connected with the needs of students and professors.
Along with Gabel’s commitment to University students and professors, she also has the responsibility of maintaining a relationship with the press. It is duly important for Gabel to be accessible to campus media which students rely on to provide transparency and insight.
With respect to this accessibility and transparency, the fact of the matter is that Gabel is a busy person. It is important to recognize that she has a lot to prioritize, such as the overwhelming bureaucratic and administrative duties that come with being the University’s president.
It’s not practical to expect Gabel to always be available right away, or to have an answer for anything and everything. But, the best we can do as students, faculty and staff is to be knowledgeable of the various ways to make our voices heard; the various ways to somehow, someway get our message through to the president.
One way to get involved is to attend the University’s monthly meetings of the Board of Regents, with the next meeting scheduled for Thursday and Friday, July 11 and 12.
You can also visit president.umn.edu, the central location for official information about Gabel, her initiatives, and ways to contact her.
As president, Gabel has a commitment to University students and professors to remain accessible and transparent. Gabel should also build and maintain a responsible relationship with campus media and the press, in which she is also accessible and transparent.
Starting anew, now is the best time for the University community to show our support for Gabel as she fills the University’s highest office and works to execute her vision. Incidentally, now is also the best time for Gabel to in turn show her support for the University community by acknowledging and responding to the questions, comments, and concerns of her constituency.
Ways to have your voice heard by President Gabel
President Gabel’s email: email@example.com
Board of Regents: https://regents.umn.edu/board-office/contact
Student Representative to the Board of Regents: https://regents.umn.edu/about-board/student-representatives-board-regents
Minnesota Student Association Student Senators and Representatives: https://www.msa.umn.edu/alrs-and-senators
Council of Graduate Students: https://cogs.umn.edu/home