Search forums spark debate

By Kelsey Caudill

William T. Young Library buzzed with ideas Friday as the campus community spoke of leadership, ambition and passion: qualities it envisions in UK’s next president.

Members of the Presidential Search Committee polled students, faculty and staff to find out what they are seeking in the next person who takes the helm at UK.

Student suggestions included keeping education a top priority, emphasizing the arts and humanities, increasing student involvement on campus and improving retention rates.

“I think the top characteristic is to be passionate about our school and our state and the improvement of both,” journalism junior Morgan Rose said. “I think that action follows passion because if you’re passionate about something, you’re going to be motivated to effect change.”

A group of UK law students came to the forum to ensure that the new facility they hope to receive in the future remains atop the next president’s agenda.

“It’s a great school, but the building doesn’t quite meet that standard,” first-year law student Lauren Biggs said. “Since there’s a change in administration we want to make sure that the new building remains a top priority.”

Although some students braved the cold weather to attend the forum, the majority of the student body voiced their concerns online. Wildcat Student TV provided live streaming video so that students could respond directly to the panel regardless of their locations.

Moderator Tom Harris, associate vice president for external affairs, addressed the panel with questions and comments from Facebook, Twitter and e-mail.

“UK needs an experienced academic in the president’s office, not just a president or CEO,” UK graduate Travis Waldron tweeted.

The Presidential Search Committee met Friday afternoon to discuss feedback from the forums. The nuts and bolts of the selection process are also being finalized, such as whether or not candidates’ names will be kept confidential throughout the search process.

The committee made the motion that all the names of the presidential candidates will be kept confidential until three to five finalists are chosen.  Those names will then be released if all of the finalists agree to it.

Debate centered on whether the Board of Trustees should release one preferred candidate to the campus before it announces the new president.  Therefore, the preferred candidate would meet the UK community before being offered the position rather than being presented to the university as the new hire.

The committee could not reach a unanimous decision on introducing a preferred candidate to the campus, but it did agree to keep candidate names confidential until the finalists are chosen.

Both of these motions will be voted on by the Board of Trustees at its Feb. 22 meeting.

“It will be good to get the input from all the board members,” Student Government President Ryan Smith said. “Whatever process attracts the best candidates is the one I’m going to support.”

Smith, a graduate student, and political science and pre-dentistry junior Taylor Cox are the only students on the Presidential Search Committee.  Smith said that he thinks they have “a really good grasp for what student priorities are right now,” but that they are still seeking further feedback.

“Taylor Cox and I are trying our best to make ourselves as available as possible to students, and if they have any input or suggestions, they can stop by the student government office.  I would encourage people to take an active role in the process,” Smith said.