Students want voice on Presidential Search Committee

Students across campus are keen to make sure their voices are heard in the pursuit of the new University President as the Presidential search committee continues to seek candidates ahead of the application deadline in November.

The committee is comprised of eight Board of Trustees members, two faculty and a single student—ASUPS president Nakisha Renée Jones. The committee will be working with a third party consultant, AGB consulting, through several rounds of candidate narrowing before sending their suggestions to the board of Trustees, who will be making the final choice about the new president.

Although the only student on the committee is ASUPS president Nakisha Renée Jones, ASUPS as an organization is not involved with the selection process. Jones was selected for her involvement with various groups on campus. She in turn selected nine students she considered leaders on campus to offer their feedback during discussion sessions with the board, many of whom were leaders of identity or culturally based groups on campus.

Students expressed interest in a candidate who reflected their identities—ideally a woman or a person of color—in order to have a leader different from Puget Sound’s past presidents.

Sophomore and president of Advocates for Detainees’ Voices and Latinos Unidos Amanda Diaz was a member of the focus group.

“All of us present agreed that we had all had experiences walking into Jones Hall and seeing the pictures of previous presidents. As you can guess, all white, all male, except for one woman. We knew that our identities were not represented there and that was one of the largest most common suggestion we gave to the search committee. We want to see our identity present in our next president,” Diaz said.

The Puget Sound Student Union has also expressed a desire to see diversity in the next president during their protests outside of the Board of Trustees events during the Board’s visit, holding signs that read simply “president of color” and “think responsibly.”

“In the student session it was brought up more blatantly, in terms of how people talked about it, and with the search committee session it was more discreet,” Jones said.

She felt that diversity was not the search team’s main objective, but that the committee was definitely aware of the desire of the student body.

“It was mentioned, and acknowledged. It’s something that they are aware of, and something that would be helpful to get a different sort of take for candidacy or search participants, but not a main emphasis—if it happens it happens,” Jones said.

“The committee seemed very interested in students’ opinions about the new president; this organization went out of their way to contact student leaders on this campus to hear their concerns with the current president and what we would like to see our future present do,” Diaz said. “They seemed very intrigued with our educational and career goals as well as what roles we play as students leaders at Puget Sound.”

The students in the focus group also were very interested in seeking a president with an interest in activism.

“Another big quality we wanted in our next president was a candidate with a HUGE social justice background. We all decided that our school has a lot of trouble organizing students, we don’t know if it’s apathy or if students are generally busy but we want someone who encourages our students to protest and to demonstrate their frustration with the injustice in this world,” Diaz said.

Jones, as the only student on the search committee, felt pressure to make her voice heard.

“I definitely felt a little drowned out by the committee at first, but then I realized I just had to jump in more courageously, and say things before people were entirely done talking, if there was a point I really felt strongly about,” Jones said.

She emphasized innovation as a quality that she wanted to find in the next president. “Sometimes I think there is a lack of innovation, and more of a continuance of tradition or founding principles—that are important, in terms [of] keeping people in the same rapport—but in terms of ability to adapt, I think we are a little behind.”

Jones feels that bureaucracy and red tape has held UPS back in the past, and she wants to make sure it does not do so in the future.

The committee states that they are seeking a “strategic and innovative planner.” Fundraising competence and commitment to students were also emphasized as key qualities. Jones emphasized that finding a president who is similar to Ronald Thomas is not the committee’s goal. “They are pretty public that they are looking for the next president, not the next Ronald Thomas,” Jones said.

President Thomas has been respectful of the process. “He tends to leave the room when they’re discussing him, making sure that he doesn’t impact people’s opinions,” Jones said.