Capilouto meets with campus

The preferred candidate Eli Capilouto spoke with students, faculty and staff on Monday, May 2, 2011. Photo by Collin Lindstrom | Staff

By Rachel Aretakis

Preferred presidential candidate Eli Capilouto spoke to faculty, staff and students Monday, introducing himself and answering audience questions.

In three one-hour sessions, audience members asked Capilouto hard-hitting questions, however not all received specific answers.

Evelyn Knight, the director of the Appalachian Center, was at the first forum and said Capilouto is very personable. However, she said she would have liked to see him speak more about the future of UK.

“He still hasn’t addressed the issues of other colleges,” she said. “I would’ve liked to have him make stronger statements about supporting other non-medical colleges.”

She said he clearly understands health science and seems open and supportive of the faculty.

During the forums, Capilouto spoke about his experience last Tuesday when he and his wife, Mary Lynne, toured campus.

“Why am I coming? Because I believe in you,” he said. “I felt an immediate bond and connection with these people.”

He spoke about how he and his wife toured the W. T. Young Library, which Mary Lynne Capilouto called a “sanctuary of learning.”

“There and everywhere, what I saw most was the color blue … that is a great builder of community,” he said.

Questions asked ranged from UK’s Top 20 goal to handling state politics to balancing athletics, academics and health care. Faculty members asked Capilouto about serious mistakes he has made and problems he has had.

“I’ll confess I have erasers on all my pencils — I do make mistakes,” he said.

Matthew Deffendall, the director of the First Scholars Program and the chair of the UK Advising Network, asked a question regarding first-generation students and advising.

“I think it’s hard in a forum to get specific details with someone who is new,” Deffendall said.
Deffendall said Capilouto’s experience is impressive and he could sense his passion and enthusiasm.

“I think the level of community involvement is impressive and will connect him with our institution,” Deffendall said.

However, because Capilouto did not give specific answers, Deffendall said some of the staff still may be unsure about him due to the closed presidential search process.

“I think staff are still waiting to see. It’s hard to get enthusiastic when things have been stagnant for a while,” Deffendall said.

He said it is hard to compare candidates when the pool remains unknown except for Capilouto.

Deffendall said he would like to see Capilouto focus on UK’s facilities.

“The unmet facility needs is astronomical. So that has to be one of the top five priorities,” Deffendall said.

Capilouto spoke about his experiences at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and how he watched it expand, and also touched on the importance of accountability.

“I do work in a spirit of transparency,” Capilouto said.

Capilouto also spoke about experiences he has had in public service. Once or twice a year, he spends a night in a shelter with homeless people.

“I do those things kind of selfishly,” he said. “(It) reminds me of how fortunate I am.”

The faculty and staff asked about disasters that have happened during Capilouto’s time at UAB, and how he handled them. He said at UAB, he helped implement significant changes, such as reducing his office; however, there were never any major disasters. He also reorganized four schools in one college.

Capilouto said he looks forward to traveling the state, living on campus and seeing students.

Patrick Johnson, an environment science junior, asked Capilouto about coal and renewable energy sources.

However, Johnson said Capilouto did not answer his question.

“It’s about what I expected,” Johnson said.

He said Capilouto was not knowledgeable on coal and needs to take a trip to Appalachia to understand. The issue of coal is probably low on the totem pole of Capilouto’s priorities, Johnson said.

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