After months of secret deliberation, the Presidential Search Committee is soon expected to announce S. Georgia Nugents successor. The job demands an impossible combination of skills a financiers instinct and a fundraisers charm, a scholars introspection and an activists passion, a steady hand and a genial affect. Where should the next president focus his or her attention?
Nearly three-quarters of Kenyons annual budget comes from tuition dollars, and if tuition continues to rise at its current rate, a Kenyon diploma will cost more than $500,000 in 20 years. Other colleges face this problem, but Kenyons president should not wait for our peers to solve it. He or she must make aggressive investment decisions to grow the Colleges endowment and limit tuition growth.
Kenyons next president needs to shift the Colleges fundraising focus from campus beautification to need-based aid. A major failure of the We Are Kenyon capital campaign, which secured the funds for four major building projects, was its inability failed to meet its financial-aid fundraising goal.
But we strongly believe that Kenyons next president should be an academic, not a CEO. As the presidents of Lewis & Clark College and Northwestern University pointed out in an essay this month, A CEO who eliminates a product line with sinking sales may be making a smart decision. A president who closes the classics department simply because enrollment is down should probably move to another profession.
Kenyons next president needs to nourish the Colleges existing departments while considering ways to modernize the curriculum. Still, the next president should recognize that Kenyon offers something increasingly rare: an authentic liberal arts education. Lets not let trends like MOOCs cloud our vision.
Last but not least, the next president needs to be an active participant in campus life. That means enriching our community experience by inviting controversial speakers, drawing attention to noted alumni and effectively responding to the concerns of the community.