Former University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg criticized Foggy Bottom residents Tuesday night in the Jack Morton Auditorium for their constant complaints about the University during his tenure.
Now a professor of public service, the University’s longest-serving president came to discuss his latest book, “Big Man on Campus: A University President Speaks Out on Higher Education,” but he focused more on his tenure as president and his 20-year battle with Foggy Bottom residents.
“(The residents) moved into Foggy Bottom knowing there was an expanding University here,” Trachtenberg said. “It’s like people who move next to an airport and complain about the noise of the planes. I find their complaining unsubstantiated. They are the beneficiaries of this University.”
The former University president has received many letters from angry locals, some of which are printed in “Big Man on Campus.” He said he came to GW in 1988 to bring about change.
“There’s going to be tension if you’re trying to get things done,” he said.
His book, which was published this fall, is about education and his experience at the University.
“It’s a book about general leadership,” he said. “They put it in the education section at the bookstore, but I disagree with that.”
Trachtenberg said that as a senior at Columbia University, he took a test to determine what kind of work he should do.
“I got executive of a YMCA,” he said. “But it’s kind of the same thing as being the president of a University, just on a lesser scale.”
The president emeritus said he wanted faculty, students and parents “to have a president that is accessible.” He said he often gave out his home phone number to parents to prove his devotion.
“I didn’t get a dozen calls in 30 years,” Trachtenberg said.
The 71-year-old professor also discussed the lack of security on campus prior to his administration.
“There is no end of preparation to create a safe and secure campus,” he said. After Sept. 11, Trachtenberg reviewed the security on campus and brought in experts to reassess emergency response.
“Being in an urban setting gives us even more reason to take extra steps in terms of security,” Trachtenberg said. “We can never take too many.”
Trachtenberg is currently on a tour promoting his sixth book and will be in Bennington, Vt., next weekend.
XM will broadcast the talk on Sonic Theatre, Channel 163, on Oct. 16 at 7 a.m.