Students express concerns during chancellor search hearing sessions

Jessica Bigley | Contributing Reporter

As the search for a new chancellor at Washington University continues, multiple hearing sessions were held on Nov. 29, Dec. 4 and Dec. 5 so that students, faculty and staff could voice their opinions on what they want to see in the next chancellor.

Many undergraduate and graduate students, as well as student groups such as the Graduate Student Senate and Fossil Free WashU, attended the session.

The search firm Isaacson, Miller—which is working with the search committee to look for a new chancellor— sent several members of its team to the listening sessions. The search committee—headed by Craig Schnuck and comprised of 19 members representing the board of trustees, administrators, faculty, students and staff—was also present at the listening sessions.

Schnuck, chair of the University’s board of trustees, emphasized the significance of taking opinions of the Washington University community into consideration during the selection process.

“The role of chancellor is a defining one for the University,” Schnuck said during the panel. “It is absolutely critical that our community—students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends—has a voice in determining the qualities this person should possess. We are committed to listening and learning throughout the pro- cess and will seek candid and substantive feedback all along the way.”

Attendees were asked to consider the most important things they would like to see changed at the University and the things they would like to see stay the same. At this point, the floor opened for students to respond and give feedback.

Members of the campus environmental campaign Fossil Free WashU focused on pressuring the University to divest from the top 200 fossil fuel companies.

“We ask that the search committee prioritize a chancellor that will take leadership against climate change—one that will challenge Wash. U. to be such a leader,” sophomore Fossil Free WashU member Allie Lindstrom said at the event.

Other students spoke about their frustrations with the current administration. Graduate students demanded that the new chancellor be willing to meet with them to discuss concerns. Undergraduates seconded the graduate students’ request for a more responsive administration.

“I want a chancellor that interacts with the students beyond surface level, image based interactions,” sophomore Rebecca Kiesel said.

Sexual assault policy was also addressed during the hearing session, receiving applause and support from the audience.

“Sexual assault and harassment is a major problem on college campuses, and Wash. U. is not an exception,” sophomore Mary Gay said. “We need [a chancellor] who actively fights back against injustice and will stand with survivors by providing and strengthening the necessary services for them.”

A majority of students who attended the session requested a relatively younger person for the position, as they believe a younger chancellor will better connect with the student body and be more flexible in their opinions on what is going on in the world.

All members of the search committee signed a nondisclosure agreement stating that they will not discuss what is going on during the search to anyone other than those on the search committee and in the search firm.

The search committee stated that they are dedicated to finding the best individual to fit the position of Washington University chancellor.

“I urge everyone to be patient. It’s going to take us a while, probably until next fall, before we come to a conclusion on the search,” Schnuck said.