The search committee is all set. The group’s chair has said they will proceed with a national scope and the advice of an outside firm.
Even the top three choices will be subject to the campus community’s vote of confidence (or lack thereof) at one juncture.
But as the search gets underway, it may be time for an evaluation by the students as to what we need in our next leader and where those requests fit in with the committee’s vision.
Many of these ideas are not in contrast from what Msgr. Sheeran is already doing or has done in the past. For example, his approachability in areas which students congregate heavily, such as in the Caf or on the Green, is a quality that should stay with the position come this spring’s transition.
Aside from interactions with the student body, the relationship between our future university president and South Orange is another focal point.
The continued debate and talk of college student discrimination with the “Animal House” ordinance almost calls for the administration, notably in the president, to stand up for his students moving forward. Should this happen, at least a unified front from the Seton Hall side of the recent town-gown strife can be presented.
One of the highlights over Msgr. Sheeran’s tenure were his distinct actions that made a statement within the campus community. His move into Boland Hall following the 2000 fire in the residence hall made an impact that is even known by some current students who weren’t part of Seton Hall at the time.
Symbolic actions like these, especially after a tragedy that affects the entire campus, help to illustrate the leadership our next president needs.
Our next president also needs to effectively balance the university’s commitment to the Catholic mission with an ever-progressive student body. The next leader, by university by-laws, will be a Catholic priest who has made a personal dedication to the church in the form of a vocation.
The challenge of balancing this idea with the needs of a diverse campus community, many non-Catholic, will undoubtedly present itself sooner rather than later for the next president. Immediate, sweeping changes should not be on the horizon after the transition, either.
There may be many areas throughout the university than can use revision or tweaking. Yet each scenario that would change the campus dynamic should be approached similar to the presidential transition – a gradual process with multiple review systems that keep the campus informed.
Finally, the backbone of the job as university president seems to be a cloudy concept for many students. A question of “what does the president do” should not be a real query. Instead, an effort that starts with educating the freshmen – the first complete class under the next president – of the tasks and responsibilities associated with a university president would be a great start.