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SU community voices demands for next president

Salisbury University community members called for candidates who embody the institution’s guiding principles of shared governance, community outreach, activism and compassion as the search for SU’s tenth president is underway.

Underscoring the gravity of the upcoming selection, Maarten Pereboom, dean of the Fulton School of Liberal Arts, said the university and its next leader must be prepared to face the societal challenges of tackling climate change, combatting racism and upholding democracy.

“We have a lot of work to do in higher education, and there’s a lot we can be doing to maximize the opportunity we have … to work with young people to address some huge problems that have to be addressed across the disciplines,” Pereboom said.

SU hosted University System of Maryland Chancellor Jay Perman for an on-campus town hall Thursday to gather feedback and input from students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members on the presidential search process.

Perman was joined by Robert Rauch, who serves as USM Board of Regents assistant secretary and chair of the SU President Search and Screening Committee. The latter also served on the university’s most recent presidential search committee to appoint Charles Wight, who will step down as SU’s president at the end of the 2021-22 academic year.

While the new committee is being assembled, the two USM leaders plan to meet with all SU shared governance groups — including the university’s Staff Senate, Faculty Senate and Student Government Association, among others — for more detailed input on the search over the next month.

Faculty Senate President Anita Brown and Staff Senate Chair Vanessa Collins each emphasized the importance of presidential candidates’ appreciation for collaborative decision-making.

“The faculty [in the past] were very involved in how the administration would make decisions and how the university would move forward, and I think that’s a huge part of who SU is,” Brown said.

Perman said the Board of Regents requires candidates to be “successful in shared governance environments.”

Campus community members identified support for undergraduate and faculty research as another key priority from candidates.

“The role of undergraduate research is absolutely critical for the training of the next generation [across disciplines],” said Michael Scott, dean of the Henson School of Science and Technology.

Other focuses included bridging gaps in the local community for marginalized groups, as well as continuing to expand civic outreach throughout the city.

“These impressive institutions of ours — like SU — cannot just sit in a community [and] isolate … they have to give back,” Perman said. “Understanding the fact that this place is also [part of] the community is paramount … it will be one of the [candidate] requirements.”

Psychology professor Karl Maier also proposed adaptability as a necessary quality of SU's next president to combat the lingering mental health effects of COVID-19, since “disruption is the new normal.”

Perman agreed the mental welfare of students, faculty and staff “must be addressed” and suggested responding to the need with “creative” solutions outside of new hires to SU’s Counseling Center.

In addition to the search committee’s efforts, the Board of Regents will also consider identified candidates and input from Academic Search, a national higher education executive search firm.

Candidates’ identities will not be publicly disclosed during the search process, prompting concerns over potential limitations in accurately representing the campus community.

Yet, Perman said the decision to close the search will remain final.

“I understand the tensions that occur … but we want to get the best president, and the way you do that is with a closed search,” Perman said.

For more information on the university’s search process, visit SU’s presidential search portal.



News editor

Featured image courtesy of Salisbury University Public Relations Office.

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