By Jillian Terry
Perfect pick for president
Earlier this month, it was announced that a presidential search committee was to be appointed to help find potential candidates for the most powerful position at Memorial. Dr. Axel Meisen finishes his term in 2008 after nine years on the job, leaving an empty desk in the president’s office. Surely, the hunt for a replacement won’t be taken lightly by the university administration I doubt we’ll see Canadian Idol styled auditions, or a new MUCEP devoted to the post but it did get me to thinking. What type of a president do we, as Memorial students, want?
Like a high school principal with an exponentially larger range of responsibilities, the university’s president often has to serve as the public face of the school not only in this province, but across Canada and around the world. It is partly his or her job to help attract new students and faculty to join the Memorial community by way of presenting a positive image of the school and its features. So, it follows that an ideal president would be one who paints a picture of our university excelling in modern research initiatives and academic programs, benefiting not only prospective students but also faculty who are leaders in their fields.
Of course, a good president must find the ideal balance between instituting new projects and maintaining low tuition fees for students. Together with the Board of Regents, the president has to encourage the provincial and federal governments to increase funding for post-secondary education that is so necessary for those of us investing our money in an education.
Moreover, it seems to me that a president’s role as the public face of campus should extend further into the surrounding area connecting Memorial with the cities in which it is situated through programs in secondary schools, health care facilities, and community clubs. The citizens of St. John’s and Corner Brook, and adjacent towns, are invaluable resources to the university, and a successful president must make that important link. Especially when it comes to career-oriented portions of study, like work terms in the Education or Engineering faculties, a president’s focus has to stray outside of solely classrooms and laboratories.
For most students, personal interaction with the president of the university occurs rarely, if ever, during their academic career. You may see them at some school function, and likely at your convocation, but otherwise the head of your school is somewhat invisible to you, at least on a day-to-day basis, leading many to believe that who the president is doesn’t matter to them.
While a university president certainly isn’t expected to personally interact with each and every student on campus, a desirable candidate would definitely try to attend as many student gatherings and fundraisers as possible, which would show not only a personable side to the university figurehead, but might also demystify the complex Memorial administrative machine.
From university representative and negotiator to community citizen and student function participant, the ideal president wears many hats during his or her time at the helm of the university. And while it may not be as exciting as voting for the next Canadian music sensation, finding someone suitable to fill the coveted and generously compensated position is a task not to be taken lightly by anyone involved.