EDITORIAL: Encourage future president in fundraising
EDITOR'S NOTE: An abridged version of this editorial was published in our print edition, due to space constraints. The full editorial is published here.
At the most recent faculty meeting, Chairman of the Faculty Senate Prof. Thomas Pochapsky (CHEM) announced that Lawrence Kanarek ’76 would head the search committee to replace University President Frederick Lawrence. Kanarek is tasked with finding a candidate who fits the unique mold of a true Brandeis president. Yet, this substantial process begs the question: what exactly is the Brandeisian presidential mold? What qualities are vital for the next president of our University to be successful?
On Thursday, the Student Union held a forum with students expressing criteria ranging from religious beliefs to a dual commitment to social justice and diversity. In the Feb. 9 edition of this section, student leaders noted the necessity that the president understand the complexity of our student body and “respond to the needs of the student body rather than to outside pressure.” As was stressed at the student forum by Student Union President Sneha Walia ’15 and representative to the Board of Trustees Grady Ward ’16, the organizers of the event, the primary responsibility of the president is fundraising and relations with the donor base. An ability to fundraise effectively is therefore our primary recommendation for the presidential search committee criteria. Disposable cash opens a tremendous number of attractive doors.
Yet fundraising becomes onerous with a perennial cycle of negative media attention. Therefore a nuanced view of fundraising ability is necessary. If the University would like the next president to succeed in fundraising, then the next president must have the imperative skills required to succeed outside of fundraising phone calls as well.
This seems esoteric but, in reality, is quite practical. A pitfall of the University as of late—specifically the Office of the President—has been chronic indecisiveness. To determine the fate of the Al-Quds University partnership, Lawrence first sent three professors to analyze the situation and then suspended the partnership without even consulting with them. Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s degree was revoked after offering it to her in the first place. And just recently, the Women’s Resource Center was set to be moved until student and alumni uproar pressured the administration to cancel those plans as well. Aggregating community feedback is essential to the decision process itself, not merely as a tool of public relations post-facto. In fact, if feedback had been leveraged in any of these decisions, it would have been clear that the impending decision was faulty.
Understandably, part of this indecisiveness stems from misjudgements of those underneath the president in hierarchy; it is integral for the next president to surround himself with a qualified administration that he trusts, whether they be current employees of the University or not.
However, the buck always stops at the president’s desk. No decision will be welcomed by all. Above all else, what we hope for in the next president of the University is someone who is both willing to make the well-reasoned decision when it matters most and handle the consequences accordingly. We want a leader resolute in his decisions—whether we agree with them all or not.