Verbum Ultimum: Searching for Participation
By The Dartmouth Editorial Board
Published on Friday, May 25, 2012
Over the past two weeks, Presidential Search Committee Chairman Bill Helman ’80 and Chairman of the Board of Trustees Stephen Mandel ’78 have sought input from the student body about which qualities to look for in Dartmouth’s 18th president. Last Thursday, only about 30 students attended a discussion hosted by Helman and Mandel to discuss these issues (“Forums gather input for search,” May 18). While we commend Helman and Mandel for reaching out to students during this important transition period, we hope that the poor attendance at the forum is not reflective of a general lack of interest among the student body in the search for the College’s next president.
A few weeks ago, the two chairs of the Inter-Community Council published a column arguing that there should be multiple students on the search committee because the student voice is critical in the process, and one student cannot adequately represent the views of the entire student body (“A Plurality of Voices,” May 1). If students were actively engaged in expressing their views to the Board of Trustees, perhaps it would make sense to increase their representation on the search committee. Students as a whole, however, do not seem to be prioritizing the presidential selection process, calling into question any increase in student representation.
Dartmouth students are quick to complain about the various issues and concerns that they have about the College, from the somewhat trivial to the critically important. At the same time, many students take great pride in the Dartmouth community, and they remain connected to the College long after graduation. As a result, it certainly makes sense for students to be invested in who is leading the College, and yet very few seem to have demonstrated any interest.
Many students have interesting ideas about the direction that the College should take. We hope that they will take the opportunities provided to them — the discussions hosted by the search committee and an online forum that solicits student opinions — to voice their input to the Presidential Search Committee to ensure that the next president is engaged in the issues that are important to students. While students may think that the issues they care about are obvious, the Board of Trustees does not have a strong presence on campus and cannot be expected to be acutely aware of student concerns without direct input.
Students should use the presidential search process as a chance to take ownership of their community and think about their vision for this campus. We hope that students seize this rare opportunity to step back and think about the future of the College as a whole and the importance of engaging in the search for Dartmouth’s next president.