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Next UI president must engage students


Daily Iowan

December 7, 2006

[Note: This material is copyright by The Daily Iowan, and is reproduced here as a matter of "fair use" for non-commercial, educational purposes only. Any other use may require the prior approval of The Daily Iowan.]

The UI's hunt for a new president has focused largely on the controversy surrounding the search, with good reason. And while we sincerely hope that the Board of Regents soon selects one of the four finalists, there has been little, if any, discussion about what the university needs in its next president. This Editorial Board expects the new leader to be an individual capable of many things, but above all, he or she must be able to connect with students.

Managing a complex and expansive environment, such as the UI, is no simple task. We trust that the search committee focused on candidates who are both capable of administration and confident in their ability to oversee the university's 11 colleges. Indeed, this competence should be the foremost requirement.

Additionally, a UI president must have a dynamic personality and be able to engage students, staff, and faculty - administrative skills only go so far. While it is important the university community respect our future president's abilities, it is just as important to respect her or his character. Former UI President David Skorton was so successful, in part, because he brought out the best in those he worked with; it is imperative our next president have the same quality. Skorton actively sought out the ideas and wishes of those surrounding him, and he was particularly adept at making students feel that he had their interests in mind.

Our new president must have the interests of the UI and Iowa City at heart and not be a proxy of Des Moines. We are happy the search committee did not include Syracuse Provost Deborah Freund as one of its finalists - she indubitably would have been too closely tied to the regents. The UI is a place of academia and not a corporation. The next president must clearly understand and support the university's academic integrity.

While health and science expertise would be ideal, candidates without extensive experience in this area should not be written off. The regents should move forward with a position of vice president to oversee the hospitals, regardless of whether the future UI president has knowledge of such affairs.

We would be failing our duty if we did not point out that our ideal candidate closely resembles Skorton. Indeed, this presidential search should not even be necessary. The regents' snub of Skorton following the Wellmark. fiasco was childish. If he had not been given a lower pay raise than the other state university presidents, we may not be in this position.

At this point, we can only hope for the best. The regents will meet Dec. 11, and with luck, the UI will have a president by the end of finals week. This Editorial Board would be delighted to see this process come to a swift and agreeable conclusion.