About 20 Foggy Bottom residents advised GW on its presidential search Wednesday evening at a community forum in the Jack Morton Auditorium.
University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg announced in April that he would step down when his contract ends in July 2007. In conjunction with the Board of Trustees’ search, the University has hosted forums to gather input from students, faculty, alumni and community members.
Wednesday’s event was the last in a series of nine forums that included an alumni forum in New York City and a forum at the Loudon County campus. More forums will be held when the Presidential Search Committee narrows the candidate pool, University officials said.
Residents in attendance commented on important presidential characteristics and gave advice for the future president. Event organizers also asked participants to critique a draft statement of GW’s vision, which articulates the University’s goals and priorities.
Bradford Tatum, a 60-year member of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, said the University should improve its relationship with the community.
“I suggest that he be nice to his neighbors,” Tatum said of the next president. “GW has been described in many articles as a Grinch that swallows up the neighborhood.”
Tatum added that he was impressed with the ideas other residents expressed, but was surprised that so few attended.
“I thought that surely they would have had many a person,” Tatum said. “I got my letter in the mail a long time ago.”
The Office of D.C. and Foggy Bottom/West End Affairs sent out an e-mail notification through the Foggy Bottom advisory listserv Oct. 23. It solicited “input of our neighbors as we undertake the task of selecting a new leader for the University.”
Foggy Bottom resident Gwan Tai offered several ideas for the Presidential Search Committee.
She suggested the committee require candidates to submit to a kinesiology test, in order to make sure he or she has a high level of self-awareness. Kinesiology uses muscle reactions to infer information about a person’s mental and physical health.
“There are many people that don’t have a high level of consciousness,” Tai said. “Kinesiology can measure that.”
She also suggested that the University vision statement better address global leadership and that the position of GW president be converted into a co-presidency in order to better satisfy competing demands.
West End community activist Barbara Kahlow said the next president should focus on improving town-gown relations.
“The first thing he should do to repair relationships is withdraw the current Campus Plan application,” Kahlow said of the University’s decision to supplant its current development plan with a new proposal. “GW already has a perfectly good Campus Plan.”
Officials said comments were being recorded and will be presented to the search committee along with suggestions submitted online through the presidential search Web site, vision.gwu.edu.
Executive Vice President and Treasurer Louis Katz said the purpose of the forum was to ensure that the community’s perspective is taken into account.
“I thought the comments were very good and what we’re trying to do is make sure everybody is engaged,” Katz said. “Unfortunately, it’s a beautiful night outside, and I think that’s why a lot of people didn’t come.”