Editorial: Under-representation of student voices on the Presidential Search Committee is unacceptable

With over 400 applicants yielding only two student representatives, the diverse opinions of the student body cannot be given full consideration.

by Daily Editorial Board

University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler shocked the University community when he announced he will step down on July 1, 2019, one year earlier than his contract was set to end. Another shocking piece of information was released months later: only two University students would sit on the Presidential Search Advisory Committee.

This is unacceptable. We see this as the University failing to recognize the diversity across our campuses and student population. Students from all five campuses need representation on the committee — two is inadmissible.

Kaler, who assumed his position in 2011, announced his resignation over the summer. In a statement, he alluded to his above-average tenure length and recognized the University’s need for a “fresh perspective.” 

Following Kaler’s statement, Regents Chair David McMillan and Vice Chair Ken Powell announced the Board of Regents would be accepting nominations for students to join the Presidential Search Advisory Committee. Individuals assigned to the committee are tasked with recommending three or four finalists to succeed Kaler. While more than 400 applied to be apart of the committee, only 23 individuals were selected — a committee twice the size of the one that selected Kaler. 

Among those 23, only two students were accepted. 

The two students accepted, College of Liberal Arts student Catalina Anampa Castro and Ph.D. candidate Harrison Frick. The other 21 committee members include three regents, five professors and several other individuals that represent various communities. While the committee comprises a wide variety of community members and University professionals, it is certainly lacking when it comes to student representation. 

Though the committee may be lacking in representation, we recognize the attempt for transparency in the search as the board has created a website dedicated to its search plans. The website is provided with regular updates and ensures the University community stays informed throughout the process. This is an incredibly useful, helpful and necessary tool for students, especially considering the under-representation of the student body.

We also applaud the search committee’s listen session initiatives, which will inform its search process. But students — undergraduate, professional and graduate – need a present voice throughout.

The board must realize that selecting two students to represent approximately 63,000 students across the five campuses throughout the search process is unrealistic. We see no reason for the Board not to add qualified and willing students to the important process.

Given that the opportunity to select new University leadership seldom presents itself, we would like to see a more plentiful and equal representation of the student body throughout the process. The University is a top educational institution, and it must afford students the opportunity to educate others on the committee about what students need in a new University President.

Although the listening sessions have passed, you can still provide your thoughts on the University’s presidential search through the Presidential Search Advisory Committee’s feedback form.