SGA discusses search for new president

Marc Ramirez, News Editor

During Tuesday’s Student Government Association meeting, Chair to the Board of Trustees Polly Radosh spoke to the delegation regarding the presidential search. Radosh started off by letting students know that the board needs to hear from them just as much as they need to hear from the board.

The first question asked was what distinct skills should the next president of Western Illinois University possess? SGA President Colton Markey answered that the next university president needs to be student-centered and have demonstrated this in their past experience, especially with the diverse student body we have. Amber Shupe, College of Arts and Sciences Senator, added that the candidate should be open minded and have a want to listen and actively ask for advice. Casa Latina Senator added that the new president should continue to build upon what Interim President Martin Abraham is trying to accomplish and establish a more diverse and inclusive campus with an emphasis on social justice.

The group was then asked what personal qualities they are looking for in the next Western President. Shupe suggested that they search for someone who has experience and/or ties to the university.

“We hope we hire someone who does not see us as a stepping stone to another job,” Shupe said.

When asked what priorities the Board of Trustees and the search committee should maintain during a search for the next president, the Casa Latina proxy stated that social justice is one of their top priorities. The Unity Senator Paul Copelard said that they should seek out someone who offers representation of diversity which is essential for them to have a vision for the future. Shupe also added that they should be able to balance high quality and low cost operations of the institution. Cecilia Langill, Graduate Studies Senator, voiced that they should be able to show the ability to make strategic decisions for the future.

Markey included that they should have experience in outside academics and show a good combination of academics and student services as they are both equally important to a student’s success at Western. Inter-Hall Council Senator Dhalaboy Guilavoqui thought that the potential president should be someone who makes their own decisions. Director of Academic Affairs Araceli Villagomez said that it should be someone who is well-versed in academia and has knowledge of both the professor and student perspectives. Director of Student Services Ryan Homer vocalized his want for a candidate who recognizes our challenges and has insight and experience in those. Vice President Daria Levchenko stated that she imagines someone with vision transparency of our diversity who will explain and back up the decisions of the university.

The crowd was then asked whether they favor a presidential search that is national, regional or internal, and why. Villagomez stated that she favors a regional and internal search because then they would have more knowledge about how Illinois government works along with the line of communication. Markey agreed with Villagomez but stated that without National Academic Affairs, we may not get the diverse pool of candidates. When asked how many would favor a national search over a regional search, 16 voted in favor of a national search and four were in favor of a regional search.

According to Radosh, numerous people from various constituency groups have suggested that the Board of Trustees appoint Interim President Martin Abraham as president with an initial 3-year contract. When she asked students in attendance their thoughts on this, Shupe responded that she does not know enough about what he does to fully support him. Copelard stated that he believes in Abraham but doesn’t believe that Western should limit themselves to just him.

“He is open minded and will use students opinions in his actions,” Markey said when speaking about Abraham. “He is also very proactive in student activities. So, I would support his three-year contract, but I am not against a National Search.”

Victoria Harmon, College of Fine Arts and Communication Senator, expressed her fear that hasty decisions might be made if someone else is searched for right now. She stated that she is in favor of hiring Abraham for three years and continuing to conduct the search during those three years. However, it was stated that if we were to hire him, we would not be doing another search, he would be the 12th president of Western and at the end of the three years, his contract would be up for renewal.

Centennial Honors College Senator Kinsey Tiemann expressed that she felt that Abraham has created a more positive light in the media when portraying Western and that she wonders if we would be spending an unnecessary amount of time conducting a search when we have a candidate who can fill the position already. Copeland said that we should consider not making hasty decisions from the National Search, but also not hire Abraham out of convenience. Langill said that Abraham has built a lot of relationships but he seemed to have looked over the Graduate Studies offices.

“From mine and my colleagues experiences here at Western, I believe it is an Undergraduate focused institution and I’m not sure I would encourage people to come here to do graduate studies not because of a poor relationships, but because I do not believe there really is a relationship,” Langill said. “Graduate students do not have a direct line of communication to the administration like the undergraduates do other than the Graduate Studies Senator position that was only made two years ago. I would like to see other things being done for other graduate students who have a different perspective than my own.”

Radosh stated that graduate students have been a core of this institution for a very long time and that they will work on it.

When surveying the room about who in attendance would vote for Abraham as the 12th President of Western, it resulted in a vote of 13-1-7.

Langill asked what the process of hiring a new president was and it was explained that there is not a current process. However, it was stated that the university is currently gathering information by the December board meeting so that we can determine a process.

Langill asked what is the intended budget to be used when searching for the new presidential candidate. It was made known that it is an expensive cost; the University of Iowa spent $306,000 and University of Minnesota spent $260,000. It was also stated that a portion of the first year salary along with the cost of the search but the expense is not a reason to not find a good candidate.

When it was asked what would be done if there are no applicants, Radosh answered that it would then be considered a failed search, meaning that they would then try again.

Langill asked if the administration was planning to bring back those who applied before. The answer was yes, that they will send out letters suggesting that they reapply for a new position.

“For that search, we were looking for a Provost which could eventually lead them to becoming President under certain circumstances,” Radosh said. “Typically, they have already found a job.”

It was also made clear that if Abraham received the initial 3-year contract, he would be named the 12th President of Western. With this appointment, Western would be allowed to immediately begin the search for a Provost.

Levchenko then asked if we are talking to others about hiring a new president. It was answered that yes, we are. Faculty forums have been held with the COEP, deans and directors, administrators, vice presidents and higher administrators. There have also been faculty executive council for the senate, faculty and civil service.