Student input essential for presidential search

The lucky 13 who have been entrusted with the task of finding the next president of the University of Miami were announced Friday. The group consists of four faculty members and nine Board of Trustees members, one of whom is a student.

In the search for President Donna E. Shalala’s successor, it’s essential that a diverse and representative group of individuals be open to feedback when leading the effort.

The university has remained transparent throughout this process by sending out an email announcement about the Presidential Search Committee’s members to the entire university community.

But, is one student enough?

The one student selected to sit on the Presidential Search Committee is the student trustee who was appointed to the Board of Trustees in May. At other universities, presidential search committees have been more inclusive when it comes to students’ voices.

The presidential search committee at Florida State University, which recently announced its selection of Florida state Sen. John Thrasher, included three FSU students – two undergraduates and one law student. And at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a private university, the search committee received advice from a six-person student advisory committee.

At the University of Miami, the Presidential Search Committee is facing a short timeline for its selection, so it’s more important than ever that the committee make the most of gauging students’ thoughts.

In an article published by the American Council on Education, Jean Dowdall, who specializes in higher education senior executive searches, explained that fewer people involved in the search means fewer perspectives.

No matter how accomplished one student may be, it’s impossible for that one person to be representative of the entire UM student body: undergraduates, graduates, law, medical, athletes and beyond.

Although the search committee members have already been selected, the best solution now is for the individuals sitting on the committee to be as open and inclusive as possible when it comes to taking suggestions from students.

Rather than let themselves remain as unfamiliar names in a list, we suggest that the committee members make themselves recognizable to students on campus and serve as an approachable repository for feedback.

Further down the road, the search committee can hold a forum and invite students to share their opinions and ask questions.

Throughout her tenure, Shalala has focused on the quality of  students’ experiences at UM. We expect the search committee to follow in her footsteps as they consider her successor.

Editorials represent the majority view of The Miami Hurricane editorial board.

October 12, 2014


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