community participation in eastern michigan university’s presidential search

I just got back from a meeting of Ypsilanti’s 2020 Task Force. Tonight was a brainstorming session. We were each supposed to show up with a number of ideas on how to better position the city for the future. Of those ideas that I shared with the group, there was one in particular that I wanted to mention here tonight with the local readers of this site. Here it is.

I think that we, the people of Ypsilanti, should communicate with the Eastern Michigan University Board of Regents as to what we’d like to see in an EMU President. (If you haven’t heard, they just let President Fallon go, and will be conducting a national search for a replacement soon.) My thought is that we should be proactive, that we shouldn’t wait until the Regents have candidates and then request a say. I think that we, the community, should be instrumental in the process from the outset. First and foremost, I think that we should request that they find someone with experience in building town/gown relationships.

I don’t know that we necessarily need a seat on the search committee, but I certainly think that we need to clearly articulate what it is that we would like to see in a President. For too long, the leaders of EMU have systematically worked to distance their institution from our community. (Most recently, they built their new student union as far from town as possible, and set palns in motion to close down one of the major streets connecting the city and the University.) My hope is that whomever they choose realizes that the University cannot be successful without the city. They’ve tried to pull away, and it hasn’t worked. In spite of their efforts, enrollment has been falling rapidly. We need someone with a different vision.

I’d like to see a leader who inspires not only the faculty, staff and students of the University, but also all of us who live and work in the surrounding area. I want someone with vision. I want someone who inspires us to work together. I think there’s a huge opportunity now that Fallon is gone, and I want to see us take full advantage of it. Maybe I’m asking too much, but I at least want to see us take a shot. I want us to look at other areas, where universities have been good local partners, and I want to share those examples with the EMU Board of Regents. I want us to step up and show them that such things are possible.

So, here’s my question to those of you who work at EMU — how should we proceed? Clearly, we need to do some research first and determine what it is that we would like to see in a leader, but, once we’ve got a handle on that, how should we move forward? Should the 2020 Task Force request a meeting with the EMU Regents? Should we try to get our Mayor on their agenda? Should we just email the Regents with our suggestions and ideas? Is there one particular Regent that we should speak with first? If you have any ideas concerning this, please let me know.

Also, leave a comment if you have any thoughts as to what we, the community, should ask that the EMU presidential search committee look for in a candidate. What qualities would you like to see?

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15 Comments

  1. CLP
    Posted July 17, 2007 at 8:47 am | Permalink

    This might call for a community petition, once a list of preferred qualifications has been agreed to.

  2. CLP
    Posted July 17, 2007 at 8:55 am | Permalink

    I’d look for a President who has, in his or her past, had experience teaching. Eastern is a teaching college and I think you need someone who understands what it means to actually interact with students and encourage them to learn. I also think you need someone with vision and experience when it comes to community involvement and economic development. I’d want someone who has launched programs in the past that demonstrate the belief that city and school must prosper together. I’d also like to see a serious commitment from the city to give the new President what he or she needs to be successful. We can help this new person work on enrollment, retention and recruiting by making Ypsi a more inviting city for students, staff and faculty.

  3. abby c
    Posted July 17, 2007 at 11:25 am | Permalink

    Hi Mark & all,

    I love this post, and agree with every word. I say ‘yes’ to all of your great ideas about being proactive in getting involved in the search for EMU prez. I very much agree that Ypsi deserves a voice in the process. If you aren’t involved in the search directly, feel free to contact me or other profs on the EMU-AAUP Executive Committee (or on the Faculty Council) so that we can get your perspective across at least vicariously. Hopefully, this time profs will get a real voice in the search process, and if so, we can help to get your voice across as well.

  4. UBU
    Posted July 17, 2007 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

    What should we, the concerned and serious members of the local community of the like minded engaged in making the world better for our children, look for in the next president of EMU — two words: shaved balls….

  5. Ubu Hater
    Posted July 17, 2007 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

    You could live quite comfortably for several years on what Fallon is likely to get paid on his way out. Maybe he will settle down here in Washtenaw County and become a drunken internet troll like Ubu.

  6. Posted July 17, 2007 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

    I want someone who’s well liked and is a good people person. The past two presidents have been generally disliked by the faculty. I think that would address the community involvement issues that you brought up Mark. Someone who is down to earth – a regular person – an Ypsi person. Personality, for me, is more important than a more prestigious resume or academic crudentials. A good, strong charismatic leader.

  7. UBU
    Posted July 17, 2007 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

    Please, I prefer to be known as a wishnik…

  8. mark
    Posted July 17, 2007 at 10:28 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for the encouragement, Abby. And thank you, everyone else, for the thoughts. I’m not sure where this is going to lead, but I plan to keep pursuing it… If I have time this weekend, I plan to do a bit of research into university presidents and the initiatives they’ve undertaken to 1) connect with their communities, and 2) assist in the economic development of their regions. If anyone wants to send me links to get me started, I’d appreciate it.

  9. Mark H.
    Posted July 18, 2007 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    Mark, I think you are being unreasonably ambitious. A president of EMU who respects the Ypsilanti community and is eager to work with Ypsi, to enhance the success of the town and the campus?? Well, it’s been a while since Eastern has had a president that respected Eastern, or bothered to get to know the campus. Isn’t it asking a lot to expect a president to get to know both the university and the town it is located in??

    I think that most EMU administrators, staff & faculty are so beaten down we will be pleased if our next president is good enough to be deemed mediocre. If EMU’s top leaders could rise to that level, it would be an immense step forward…

    Excuse my cynical humor, above. EMU offers a good education, and has lots of outstanding qualities, but our top administration is plagued with sub-mediocre achievements and personalities.

    In all seriousness, I concur with your goals for a town-gown friendly and effective president. Eastern’s success, and Ypsilanti’s success, are codependent. That fact is better understood in town than it is in Welch Hall.

  10. Jim
    Posted July 18, 2007 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

    Mark, I encourage you to contact the members of the Executive Council (http://www.emich.edu/president/exec_council/), which was just created to advise and assist Acting President Loppnow. Two members of the four person board–Freman Hendrix, Chief Government Relations and Special Projects Officer, and Joe Pollack, Director of Charter Schools–have community relations as a major part of their regular job responsibilities.

  11. BVos
    Posted July 19, 2007 at 10:59 pm | Permalink

    Freman Hendrix might be a good in road for the exec. council. Several city staffers and council members have met with and know Freman. I think he would be open to the idea being a former city worker in Detroit.

    For new Presidents, David Adamany might be willing to come on as a clean up man for a few years. He’s 71 and it appears that due to the new(ish) position he’s taken at Temple he wanted to take it a little easier for a while. Adamany has done a good job at Wayne State and Temple getting previously insular campuses very involved and integrated into their surrounding communities. He’s also tremendously boosted attendance at both universities. These are two things that EMU really needs help with. Maybe he’d be willing to come on as a pinch hitter for a few years.

    http://www.temple.edu/temple_times/announcements/0601adamany.html

  12. Mark H.
    Posted July 19, 2007 at 11:40 pm | Permalink

    Wasn’t David Adamany’s previous presidencies at WSU and Temple marked by major labor management disputes?

  13. UBU
    Posted July 20, 2007 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    I know of a couple of very experienced administrators who are out of work right now — Paul Wolfowitz and Donald Rumsfeld….Mark, I encourage you to ontact them…

  14. UBU
    Posted July 20, 2007 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    or contact them…

  15. Ronny
    Posted July 20, 2007 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

    FEMA director Brownie – the guy who did “a heck of a job” in New Orleans in the wake of Katrina – might not have been snapped up by industry yet, and he’s got experience with catastrophes.

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