Officials must include more students in the search for a new provost

The University has begun searching for its next provost after Forrest Maltzman announced he will resign from the post once a new person is hired.

An 18-member committee – consisting of 14 faculty members, Deputy General Counsel Charles Barber, two trustees and Student Association President SJ Matthews – will lead the search, develop a profile for the position and interview candidates in the coming months. But those involved in the search for one of the University’s most powerful administrators should not include just one student.

The provost oversees all schools and student life. While serving as provost, Maltzman oversaw the restructuring of the student affairs division, responded to a racist Snapchat with a slew of diversity measures, supervised the overhaul of the Office of Student Financial Assistance and pushed to increase the University’s focus on research.

The provost has a direct impact on students’ lives, both academically and socially. Officials must include more students in the search committee to ensure the next provost will adequately represent both students and faculty.

While the provost oversees both academia and student life, the University included a disproportionate number of faculty to students. Officials’ decision to include more faculty demonstrates that they value professor input over students’ opinions, overlooking the insight students could bring to the committee. The search committee should be comprised of an equal number of faculty and students so both parties are adequately represented.

While officials included only one student in the committee, they are holding four listening sessions in person and through a livestream for students to provide feedback to the committee about how to design a profile for the post. But these sessions were advertised in one email sent late last month, and the sessions may attract few students because they are held in the middle of finals. Allowing students to comment on the decisions of the search committee is not an effective replacement for having only one student in the group.

Matthews represents the student body as SA president, but she may not speak for all students. More graduate students should be involved because they can ask questions about topics like graduate student unionization, an issue Maltzman responded to last academic year. Students could also ask the potential provost how they would respond to another racist incident like the Snapchat last February or how the provost could help first-generation students acclimate to campus life. Including Matthews in the process is a logical move to gauge student input because she represents the student body, but she may not bring all of these perspectives into the search.

Bringing students into the fold will allow them to comment on issues faculty may not think to bring up, like affordability concerns or the call to change the Colonials nickname, during the hiring process. Students could also discuss their experiences in the classroom and whether the new provost should implement diversity training for faculty – an issue raised during SA elections earlier this semester.

The University should consider adding more student leaders to the committee. SA senators could speak to the specific needs of the students within various schools they represent. Student leaders of multicultural student organizations could offer insight on what they want in a provost.

In addition to asking questions about general student life, graduate students and those within the medical and law schools also need their interests represented. Their insight into the student experience as individuals who may not live on campus and have different academic needs than undergraduate students would be valuable in asking the potential provost questions concerning their respective schools.

Officials were right to include faculty in the committee – they are directly impacted by the provost and often communicate with the provost about issues ranging from research to new academic projects. But students also need a seat at the table.  The provost of the University makes decisions that affect students, making them a vital component of the search for one of the University’s next top administrators.

The editorial board is composed of Hatchet staff members and operates separately from the newsroom. This week’s piece was written by opinions editor Kiran Hoeffner-Shah and contributing opinions editor Hannah Thacker based on conversations with The Hatchet’s editorial board, which is composed of assistant copy editor Natalie Prieb, managing director Leah Potter, contributing design editor Olivia Columbus, sports editor Emily Maise and culture editor Sidney Lee.

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