Forum was a start, but Todd should be more accessible

President Lee Todd has been known to occasionally roll up his sleeves and shoot a few rounds of pool with students. Usually, it’s a welcome break from the stresses of university life.

But right now, with a possible shortfall in state funding and a host of other issues facing UK, Todd came to the Cats Den on Monday not for the pool or ping-pong tables, but for some much-needed face time with students.

The forum was billed as “A Conversation With Lee Todd” in advertisements around campus, and while the hieroglyphic-like design on the posters — the outline of Kentucky with a large dollar sign and question mark inside — emphasized the proposed state budget cuts, the discussion wasn’t restricted to money.

In the 90 minutes of questions and answers, UK students made it obvious that they’ve got more on their minds than just a dollar sign, and Todd signaled that he wants to hear what students care about.

Granted, Todd really only reached a handful of students — about 50 attended on a campus with more than 19,000 undergraduates, though others could listen to a live broadcast on WRFL. Nor did Todd present any startling new information while answering questions.

But in this case, it’s the thought that counts the most. By coming to the Student Center and opening himself up to questions, UK’s president hoped to show that he hasn’t become lost in the Top 20 Business Plan and lobbying legislators, that he is still concerned with the students who make up the university.

Unfortunately, the forum might be too little, too late for many students, especially upperclassmen who for the past few years have known the president mostly from campuswide e-mails, coverage in the Kernel and the annual State of the Campus address.

While we would have preferred to see a program like “A Conversation With Lee Todd” take place earlier, we’re glad to see that Todd is now addressing students face-to-face. Now it should turn into a regular occurrence.

At the very least, Todd should find time once each semester to hold a forum with students and hear their concerns. And when the future of the university is unclear, such as it is now because of the state budget outlook, additional forums are certainly warranted.

Also, students need to see that their ideas and concerns are being heard at forums. While students and administrators will never come to a consensus on every issue, Todd should come to discussions with an open mind and display a willingness to adjust his beliefs based on what students have to say.

When the university is facing problems, Todd is understandably at his busiest. But the resulting questions mean that forums such as Monday’s are more important than ever. When students see that Todd is committed to directly addressing their concerns and listening to their suggestions, they will turn out in larger numbers to forums and find ways to take an active role on UK’s campus.