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Grads want pres to share priorities

By Zach Colick
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, October 20, 2005
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Graduate students asked committee members to look at the track record of candidates' past abilities with graduate student needs to ensure the issue carries on at the UA once President Peter Likins retires.

Many graduate students who spoke at last night's Presidential Search Committee forum said keeping tabs on the track record of the success of candidates, or lack thereof, would help keep the UA a "great Research One university."

Andrew Blount, a second-year medical student and chairman of the medical student government, asked how the committee members would be able to gauge what graduate students are looking for.

While some of the present seven committee members answered vaguely by saying the issue is "hugely important," others responded with substance.

Committee member Ben Graff said he is looking for someone who has done thorough research on the UA in order to know the ins and outs of all the graduate student concerns, as well as those of undergraduates.

"We really do need a president who understands the makeup on our campus," said Graff, a third-year law student and voting student regent. "We ought to have someone who has experience or a background with graduate student affairs."

The lack of graduate students present on the committee is also a concern because many graduate students said they feel they are the workforces of the university, said Anne Murdaugh, a philosophy graduate student. As graduate students take on both roles of student and teaching assistants, some think they have become consumers of the university instead of ones that are valued, Murdaugh said.

"We're doing the UA a great favor, doing great work for you and need to be acknowledged as such," Murdaugh said.

While Committee Chairman Fred Boice said graduate students have a constant voice in the committee search, only two of the 31 committee members, Graff and Student Body President Cade Bernsen, represent graduate student needs. If graduate students could give the committee members the names of qualified applicants who can take over for Likins, it will allow them to show the committee they are committed to the search process, said Richard Myers Jr., the incoming chair of the Southern Arizona Leadership Council.

"This will help encourage the best people to come forward," Myers said.

When the best come forward though, retaining faculty should also be a high priority of the next president, said Ryan Paul, a graduate student studying English.

The university is what it is because of its faculty, Boice said, who stressed the importance of finding a president who shares the same belief because grants departments receive come directly from the faculty members themselves and not the university, a point he said many people don't understand.

Toni Massaro, committee member and dean of the James E. Rogers College of Law, said they are looking at potential leaders' experience outside of the university to see if candidates have built community relationships with business savvy and governmental leaders, for example, in order for them to succeed in all facets of the job in being the next UA president.

"We want people to see the big picture so the UA can prosper into the future," Massaro said. "We don't want to see students become products of the university."

Yesterday's forum was part of a series of 20 forums geared at receiving input from different interest groups on campus. The last forum will take place tomorrow for professional administrators. The forum begins at 1:30 p.m. in Gallagher Theater in the Student Union Memorial Center.

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