Opinion

University Needs Better Presidential Selection Process

The Phoenix//Tyler Langan// Fr. Garanzini will be stepping down in June. The University deserves a better presidential selection process than the one that's been proposed.

My first month at Loyola I covered the State of the University address for The Phoenix. It was my first encounter with the Rev. Michael Garanzini, S.J. Campus looked a lot different then. When you wanted to meet someone on the quad, there was no need to ask “which one?” The lawn next to the chapel was a parking lot. There was a McDonald’s under the Loyola El stop and Cuneo was a pile of Damen Hall’s rubble. Oh, and there was no Damen Student Center.

I don’t think people realize how dire of a situation Loyola was in when Garazini landed in Chicago. The world might not have gone into apocalyptic mayhem when Y2K happened, but Loyola was sinking. So much so, that the Tribune compared salvaging Loyola to turning the Titanic around in the Chicago River.

Loyola was in a deficit of $31 million, enrollment dropped from 1,067 to 889 from 1999-2000 and protests for the impeachment of former President the Rev. John Piderit, S.J. were a common occurrence.

Garanzini walked into a failing school and turned it into what it is today. Campus is transformed, enrollment hovers right around 2,200 students per class and we have a growing endowment and network of supporters that allow us to thrive. While we aren’t perfect by any means, and Loyola’s rebound was a team effort on many fronts, we owe ample gratitude for the leadership of Garanzini.

My surprise was as much as anyone else’s when the email blast went out announcing that Garanzini was stepping down. Much has been written in this paper, and even more on Facebook and Yik Yak, about the recent events surrounding Garanzini. But I think as a community we missed an enormous detail that was nestled in between the lines of that email: “We anticipate that a search firm will be retained to assist a small group — primarily composed of Trustees — in conducting a national search for our next University leader.”

With all of the excitement of change, it can be difficult to read between the lines — quite literally between the dashes of that particular sentence: “primarily composed of Trustees.”

It turns out I’m not the only one who noticed that line. The university staff council has released a statement: “We, the University Staff Council, wish to express our extreme displeasure about the way in which the membership of the Presidential Search Committee was established,” its statement reads. “Once again, your treatment of Staff Council failed altogether to show any respect for us or our constituents.”

If you’re thinking that doesn’t look familiar or, perhaps, “Wait, I’m on Staff Council. I don’t remember putting that out,” you would be on to something. That statement was actually released July 12, 2000, following the announcement of the Presidential Search Committee that eventually hired Garanzini.

That committee was composed of two senior vice presidents, two trustees, three Jesuits (two of which were also trustees, bringing that total to four), four faculty members and the president of Loyola University Health Systems. Oh, here’s the kicker — students were on the board: one graduate and undergraduate student.

A committee with that level of diversity, which seems like a unreachable ideal to us today, was nonetheless scrutinized in a Phoenix article that ran on September 13, 2000, under the headline: “Controversy abounds over search committee appointments.”

What happened? How did our inclusion of the entire university committee get worse in the last 15 years? With all due respect and gratitude for all that the search committee does for the Board of Trustees, it cannot and will not be sufficient to select our new leader. While there are some representatives of academia and Jesuit values that compose the Board, what do CEOs and bankers know about the issues facing the student body, the plight of the adjunct professors or how best we can achieve Garanzini’s new social justice initiative?

If Garanzini’s tenure was as impressive as everyone says it was, which I believe, then why wouldn’t we try to model and expand on the inclusion used in composing his search committee? It picked a pretty good one last time, didn’t it?

Zac Davis is a contributing columnist

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