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Community heard at open fora

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The presidential search process is nearing its second phase as Saint Louis University hosted two open fora last week, providing the entire SLU community with information about the search process and asking for input on what qualities the university’s next president ought to have. James Ferrare, the head of AGB Search, the consulting firm hired to guide SLU in its presidential search, led both meetings.

The first open forum was held Monday morning, Oct. 14, in the Learning Resources Center on SLU’s medical campus. Students from SLU’s Madrid campus joined the meeting by video. The second open forum was held the same afternoon in the Center for Global Citizenship (CGC). The second forum had over 100 people in attendance.

Ferrare opened the meeting in the CGC by providing the general outline of the search process over the coming months. The data his team gathered over the month of October will be used to draft a presidential profile to be approved by the Presidential Search Committee, a collection of administrative, faculty and student representatives tasked with finding SLU’s next president.

AGB Search will use the profile as they recruit and interview potential candidates to find a suitable fit for the university. Information concerning the search process is available on SLU’s website.

Ferrare asked the crowd for their opinions on the issue of only looking at Jesuit candidates. According to Ferrare, the overall response has been that a dedication to the Jesuit mission is a must for any presidential candidate. Mike May, a Jesuit and associate professor of mathematics, emphasized talent over affiliation.

“I’d rather have a good, competent lay-person than an incompetent Jesuit,” May said.

Many audience members touched on issues that were central points in the ‘no confidence’ controversy surrounding SLU’s campus in the last academic year.

Gregory Beabout, an associate professor of philosophy, suggested that AGB Search gather a broad range of perspectives on the issue, stating that a recent feature in St. Louis Magazine on the no confidence events didn’t provide an accurate account of last year’s melee.

“We owe it to you to have a broad perspective,” Ferrare responded. “I promise you we will do that.”

One speaker requested a staff representative on the search committee. In its current iteration the committee lacks any staff members. Her statement was met with strong support from the auditorium.

Multiple people stated that a good president should understand the value of SLU’s faculty and how to work with that group to better the university.

Christine Stevens, a professor in the math department, argued that the next president would find it easy to tap into the goodwill and creativity she sees amongst the faculty.

Another speaker encouraged the committee to venture outside of academia in their search, arguing that a CEO, man or woman, might be a better fit than an academic if their skill set was right. Beabout disagreed, stating that having a president with experience in earning tenure is a non-negotiable necessity.

One community member suggested candidates should have a global perspective. Ferrare said that was a common concern, mentioning that students on the Madrid campus wanted to be known not as a separate campus, but instead as “Saint Louis University Madrid.”

Comments were also made that a contemporary president needs to understand the role of technology in business and academics, as well as the cost of maintaining and upgrading such technology.

Ferrare closed the forum by encouraging anyone with thoughts on specific candidates to contact him.

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