As the selection deadline approaches, let’s take a look at what we actually know about the future university leader.
Header Image: Christian Brothers Conference
If you have been following the Collegian at least for a few months now, you know that this board is not one to often speculate on what the university is planning and how they plan to act. As far as we are concerned as the staff of this publication, which is first and foremost for and by the student body, if the university wanted us to have information, we would have it, and digging into the internal politics of the Board and university leadership groups will only lead to further speculation and frustration on certain issues.
This, though, is a different case.
It has only been about eight months since the Lasallian community received word that Tim O’Shaughnessy, ’85, would be taking over as interim president when Dr. Colleen Hanycz booked her one way trip out of dodge.
This publication has been clear in the past that we respect Dr. Hanycz efforts during the early phases of the COVID-19 pandemic and also respect her decision to leave the university, even at such a turbulent time. But, the fact still stands that La Salle was in a shaky place before she left, and since Hanycz, and a surprisingly large number of her supporters within the university, left without a trace, students have been left with a shell of an administration that lacks in both transparency and focus.
Momentum 2022 is coming to a close, and the main tenets of the plan — mission, branding, affordability and leaps in enrollment — have all but fizzled out, and plans have already been drawn up for the next Momentum plan, but no significant updates or statistics have been provided on the conclusion of the 2022 plan or the steps toward the next plan since Hanycz’s departure. Not to mention Project Compass has been all but buried under layers of talk since March 2020.
All of these events have led to wild speculation in the student body. Why did so much of the administration jump ship at the same time? Why did we decide to cut so many sports programs, and what alternatives were ignored? What is going on behind the scenes and is it something to be worried about? Only time will answer these questions, but, what we can answer now is that the next president of this university will have to be the one to re-orient the Lasallian community, provide transparency as to the happenings of the school’s administration and point the managerial compass toward a reachable goal.
In the eight months that the Presidential Search Committee has been publicly active, the student body has received 11 updates, with the most recent being published on Jan. 11, 2022. The first was quite important, as it laid out the plans to form the committee and what would be done by them, the second listed many members of the committee, one announced the committee’s partnerships, one asked for student feedback, one discussed the committee’s commitment to diversity in short order and all the rest were vague messages that did not benefit anyone outside of the committee except to say “we’re still working on it.”
In the position profile, which is publicly available, most objectives laid out in the leadership opportunity section are entirely based on enrollment, financial enrichment and making the university more appealing. Just two small sections even mention the Lasallian mission and social justice. Word salad and public relations language are used to disguise it, and while we don’t believe the committee is acting maliciously or shadily by hiding their true intent, the position profile is a coded attempt at letting those interested know: “we need a president who will make us money.” That is their main focus.
Private institutions are businesses in and outside of capitalist societies, and no more true is this than in America, but when earning money, spending money wisely and increasing revenue streams is the bulk of a plan laid out by those determining the future of a long, historied university known for its mission, community, service to others and helping the marginalized and those in need, have we fallen off the path laid out by the founder? It appears that explorers might sometimes be lost, and that this university community may be entering into a dreary, money-desperate future.
We say all this not to muckrake or demean any members of the Presidential Search Committee, nor any presidential candidates, but rather to grab their attention and make a final appeal to those who determine the future of this great institution to please not lose sight of what makes La Salle what it is: its mission, commitment to service, inclusion and the support of diversity. We know that commitment to these pillars is written in your plans, we can see it on public documents and several of your members have expressed this at listening sessions and in private conversations with our staff. But words don’t mean anything without action.
Please, keep diversity in mind when selecting La Salle’s 30th president. We need to maintain a solid dedication to making students of all ethnicities, genders and cultures feel welcome. We need a president who will actually help La Salle take the place in the community they always claim to be in: one that helps and supports those around us and abroad through financial and educational support, and one that lives out John Baptiste de La Salle’s mission of supporting the needy. Please, if only for a moment when voting or determining candidates, try to see a future for the university that provides us wealth: both in culture as well as finance, not just the latter.
We look forward to hearing your decision in the coming months.
— The Editorial Board.