Students discuss presidential criteria
On Thursday, students had the opportunity to share their perspectives on what aspects the next Brandeis president should embody during a student forum titled “What Do You Want to See in Our Next President.” Student Union President Sneha Walia ’15 and Student Representative to the Board of Trustees Grady Ward ’16 facilitated the forum.
The event was held in the International Lounge and was sponsored by the Student Union.
Walia and Ward explained the purpose of the discussion and the presidential search process. Students then broke into smaller groups to discuss the qualities they want to see in the next president. Walia and Ward monitored the conversations for opinions, ideas and thoughts.
Walia explained the role of the president of the University. “The most significant role of the president is fundraising,” she said. President Lawrence works and negotiates with donors in order to receive large donations, according to Walia. Walia told the students that he is often “traveling to meet different alumni who are considering giving gifts or have given gifts in the past in order to get some level of recognition.”
The president also reaches out to recent alumni, past fundraisers and members of the Board of Trustees, “who donate significant amounts to this University every year to stay on the Board,” said Walia.
“[The] president needs to make sure that they [the Board of Trustees] put forward information about Brandeis that works in the interest of those donors,” Walia said, mentioning that “making sure that Brandeis and [its] donors are comfortable” is important so as not to “alienate donors and members of the board.”
Ward added that students often “want our president to be accessible,” making it “frustrating” when past presidents have not been around as much. “I think what we want from this discussion is to really better understand the needs of our community and how our community wants to engage at the high levels of our administration,” Ward said.
Students expressed a wide range of views in what they would like to see in the next University president.
Student Union Minority Senator Marlharissa Lagardere ’16 said she wants to see a person of color or a woman as president.
Another student asserted the next president should be a Brandeis alum. Lagardere disagreed and said she would be concerned because if the president was an alum, he or she would not be familiar with the changes the university has experienced because “back then diversity [didn’t exist]” so he or she “wouldn’t know the caliber of what the University has come to.”
Ben Margolin, class of 2017 senator, argued that the future president should be Jewish due to the university’s relation to Jewish principles and values. Nyah Macklin, class of 2016 senator and Student Union president-elect for 2015-2016, added that the next president should be involved with all communities and not just the Jewish community.
“If we do have a president who is Jewish, [it’s important] that he doesn’t forget about all the other communities that we have on campus,” Macklin said.
Junior Representative to the Board of Trustees 2015–2016 Emily Conrad asserted “[Brandeis] was founded as a space for people who didn’t have a space and at the time it was a large Jewish population.”
Student Union Vice President Charlotte Franco ’15 mentioned she wants a president who will engage with the student body and fundraise but also “find the middle ground between the Board of Trustees [and] being there for the students.”
She said the presidential transition is “very rough” and Brandeis should have both “a representative who wants to stay and a team that wants to stay.” Student Union Chief of Staff Flora Wang ’15 agreed with Franco and also said “this is a chance to grow diversity as well.”
“We need a president who is able to impart that vision of Brandeis, and able to make people who care about the Jewish mission of Brandeis also care about the diversity mission of Brandeis,” said Ward.
“We have a dual identity, and I really want to see a president who’s able to make people of either really care about both.”
President Lawrence and Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Lisa Lynch will work together until July 1, when Lynch will transition into the role as Interim President.
The search process will take a full year before a new president of the University is selected.
Walia said she will be the student representative to the presidential search committee.
In an email, Walia clarified that “no one reached out to ask me, but I was nominated and Andrew Flagel let me know that I was appointed to it.”
Walia will meet with the members of the Board next week at the Board Meeting.