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Students weigh in on the search for the next president

By Grace Hitzeman

The Colleges Presidential Search Committee is progressing toward the final phases of the search process, and as it narrows in on top candidates, Student Council wants to make students voices heard. On Sunday, February 17, members of Student Council discussed qualities they would like to see in the Colleges next president with a student representative tasked with communicating these recommendations to the search panel.

Sam Baker 13, Business and Finance Committee co-chair, said that Student Council most wants to see a residential president.

For every good thing our current president has done, its always undercut by the elephant in the room: that shes not always here, he continued. She has to travel a lot, but I didnt see her until sophomore year. Since Kenyon focuses so much on community, I think the figurehead of our community should be in that community, Baker said. Along those lines, several Student Council members expressed a desire for the next president to have a family here on campus.

Theres stories of old presidents who hosted gatherings at their house, Baker said. I think that Cromwell Cottage should be lit up,four nights a month in some capacity, with students, or professors, or guests, or trustees or someone, but Cromwells dark right now, and has been.

First Year Council Co-President Olivia Sterling 16 said that First Year Council had discussed the presidential search amongst themselves as well. Trevor Kirby 16, First Year Councils other co-president,said, One of the largest traits I would look for in the next president of Kenyon College would be a president who would foster the community that we have developed such a tradition with. Sterling praised President S. Georgia Nugent for keeping many of these traditions alive but also introducing new ideas to the campus.

A president who can foster community but also continue Nugents legacy of fundraising was paramount for the Council. Looking at the statistics within the endowments, the next president has a large role to play within fundraising, so theres a lot of growth in that, Kirby said. President Nugent has done a fine job with fundraising, and she has really set a precedent for that.

Often, a fundraising-focused president can be seen as antithetical to one who will foster community spirit and a sense of campus closeness.

But Kelsey Hamilton 15, the sophomore representative to Student Council, said an emphasis on fundraising and attendance at Kenyon events are not mutually exclusive. Hamilton suggested that the next president could expand his or her presence on campus by continuing to participate in events such as Dancing with the Kenyon Stars and Midnight Breakfast and adding new ones to his or her repertoire.

Another important consideration Kenyons next president will face is maintenance of Kenyons extensive physical plant, including acres of land holdings. Because of the work of the Philander Chase Corporation, the College has 4,400 acres to manage, which means that the school could use a president with an eye for facilities, Baker said.

You need an investment banker, a fundraiser, a professor, and someone with a Ph.D. in land management, he said.

Sterling said the next president should focus on issues of diversity. The student body is pretty homogenous, Sterling said, but the diversity we do have is really great. Nugents legacy includes increasing diversity on campus in several areas, including gender equality in athletics. Kirby hoped that the next president will also advocate or increase Kenyons appearance on a national scale for academic excellence.

Hamilton said that, above all, the next president should be personal. She said the next president should have a Kenyon personality, quirky, intellectual sense of humor, which could help connect him or her with students.

With such an extensive wish list, Student Council members acknowledged it would be impossible for the next president to fully meet all of their expectations. The big challenge will be balancing, Baker said. Have you read Plato? Have you read Aristotle? Do you have an eye for what the curriculum needs to be at a top-tier college? And, oh by the way, do you know about geothermal wells and what challenges those are going to produce?

Ultimately, it will come down to two questions, according to Kirby: What are the priorities now with Kenyons current circumstance? And what does Kenyon need most?

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