By Jillian Terry
In limbo for a new leader
On a stormy night at the end of 2007, under the not-so-quiet cover of fireworks displays and New Year’s Eve revellers, there was a changing of the guard at Memorial. Jan. 1 marked the official beginning of Dr. Eddy Campbell’s term as acting president after Dr. Axel Meisen left the president’s office for the last time, en route to his new position with the Alberta Research Council.
After almost nine years as president and vice-chancellor of the university, Dr. Meisen’s departure signals the start of a time of limbo as Memorial searches for a uniquely qualified individual capable of running the largest university in Atlantic Canada. And if that order isn’t already tall enough, add a healthy dose of time constraints into the mix. While Dr. Campbell will serve as acting president until a replacement is recruited, the Board of Regents plans to have completed its search by spring of this year, with a new president in place for September.
This, combined with the fact that there are several other Canadian universities also in the market for a new president, including the University of Ottawa and Concordia University in Montreal, may make finding a new expert to sit at the desk in the office of the president tricky at best.
Ottawa’s Carleton University named Roseann Runte as its new president earlier this month, making her the first woman to hold the post at the university. The University of Waterloo has also faced issues with the president’s position, as Prime Minister Stephen Harper recently recruited President David Johnston to serve as an independent adviser on the inquiry into former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney’s dealings with Karlheinz Schreiber.
Regardless of the possible candidate pool, however, Memorial’s search for a new head will mark an important change for the university. In this interim waiting period (cue Jeopardy thinking music), a significant transition will occur from the former regime led by Dr. Meisen to a new vision shaped and moulded by whoever is eventually deemed suitable to take the helm. While carrying on with many of the programs and goals created by the former president and his colleagues, the new president will be responsible for adding their own expertise and innovation into the plans for Memorial’s future development financially, academically and otherwise.
The coming months will undoubtedly see much change in the administration of the university, but I won’t be jumping to the conclusion that a new president necessarily means a new Memorial. Like the constant presence of fireworks and noisemakers at New Year’s Eve parties, many of Memorial’s missions and goals will remain the same regardless of whose name is engraved on the door of the president’s office in the Arts and Administration building.
But, like the new guy at the party who makes piñata-hitting a new tradition at New Years, a new president will (hopefully) introduce Memorial to fresh and original ideas on how to govern a growing university in the 21st century. After all, hitting a piñata once in a while never hurt anyone, did it?