Following last year’s tumultuous events, the implications of the presidential search process are high. During the presidential search process, students, faculty and staff must be engaged, but not without the cooperation of the Ithaca College Board of Trustees and the presidential search committee.
This means scheduling community events during times that allow for the greatest number of students and faculty members to attend — not during popular class periods — as well as allowing staff members to attend if the sessions take place during the work day. This also means advertising the visits of the finalists so that the community is fully aware of when they will be taking place. This does not mean one or two Intercom announcements — it means flyers across campus and email alerts sent to members of the college community.
Even if all this is accomplished, it is further imperative for committee members and the board of trustees to listen to the critiques put forth by former constituents of the candidates.
In 2008, during the last presidential search, which ultimately chose president Tom Rochon, a background search by The Ithacan into Rochon’s tenure at the University of St. Thomas and input from his colleagues revealed red flags that the search committee should have taken more seriously.
The UST administration canceled an appearance from South African social rights activist Desmond Tutu, and a professor was removed from her position after voicing her opposition to the decision. As The Ithacan reported on March 27, 2008:
Carl Mickman, president of the St. Thomas undergraduate student government, said that when asked about the incident, Rochon and Dease were not receptive to concerns.
“Complete silence,” he said. “They were really just not willing to discuss a lot of these things with students.”
Agapitos Papagapitos, chair of the St. Thomas economics department and chair-elect of the faculty senate, said his first two years dealing with Rochon were rocky, but since then, the relationship between Rochon and the faculty has improved.
“He has become a better listener,” Papagapitos said. “I think he has understood better what the culture of the university is. He has become a person who leads with more consensus than he was at the beginning.”
Eight years later, he seems to have regressed. This should be a lesson for this new presidential search committee: take all comments seriously when considering the next president.