Editorial: What we should expect from our future president?

Editorial Board

Case Western Reserve University has been buzzing with the news of President Snyder’s resignation. The administration quickly assembled the Presidential Search Advisory Committee, a collection of professors, administrators and a few students who will identify important characteristics for our next president. The actual searching and hiring process will be conducted by a third-party company, Spencer Stuart, who has previously been responsible for finding administrators. 

In light of the impending search for a new president, we would like to present a list of our own expectations.

Barbara Snyder made important initiatives in her time as president, but now we have the opportunity to raise our expectations of the administration and university. Among these issues is aggressively addressing climate change, assessing top-down leadership, expecting the same of faculty as they do of students and reviewing salaries and priorities overall. 

As mentioned last week in Jason Richard’s article, the Search Advisory Committee fails to represent anyone from the Office of Sustainability or a like-minded organization. While we can hope that everyone on the committee is acting in the interest of the planet and pursuing improved sustainability initiatives, it is understandable how these matters may fall through the cracks of pressing issues. Our next president must have an aggressive plan on how we, as a preeminent research institute and university, will act to reduce our carbon footprint and overall impact on the environment. 

In 2011, Barbara Snyder pledged to set CWRU on a path of carbon-neutrality by 2050. While this may read as a lofty and inspiring goal, it’s not. The reality of this existential crisis is that we, like other organizations, must be immediately reducing our carbon emissions to be neutral by 2030. Our next president must enforce strict goals of reducing emissions, increasing our dependence on renewable resources over non-renewable ones, demanding endowment divestment from oil and gas corporations and leading from the top down on how we can all be living more sustainable lives. 

Top-down leadership can be very effective at inspiring other people to take up a more sustainable lifestyle. For instance, as an integral part of the University Circle community, what are we doing to encourage transit infrastructure and use? While each student pays for a discounted RTA pass as part of semester expenses, there seems to be reluctance among some to use the train and bus systems. A president should lead by example by relying on the transit system to get to work every day, or choose to live in a community within walking or biking distance. To do so may break the unfortunate stereotype that bus and train systems, especially in Cleveland, are only for the working class. We need a president who will not only lead our university, but also show compassion, diligence and initiative in their individual life. 

Another way that our future president could show a desire to respect the roles of all staff, faculty and students on campus is through their salary. Barbara Snyder is ranked as one of the top-paid university presidents in the country, with a 2017 compensation of $2,021,313 in base, bonus and “other” pay. Her total pay is higher than presidents at Harvard, Yale, University of Chicago, Stanford, and Brown. No one, certainly no one in a non-profit academic institute, is “worth” that salary. Especially as across campus dining staff working for Bon Appetit make $11.39 per hour, a wage just livable for one adult. Snyder’s successor would do well to prioritize the value of all university workers. Leading by example, they could suggest a lower, more reasonable salary in order to better those of other workers. 

Finally, the next president should be sure to hold faculty to the same standards as they do students. If the president expects students to be attentive, hard-working and involved, so must the faculty. Faculty should no longer be able to prioritize their research over teaching classes—a majority of students should not learn primarily by themselves. 

There is certainly excitement and optimism as we turn over a new leaf as a university. While our involvement in choosing Snyder’s successor is limited, it is important we air our concerns and ensure the academic, social and environmental issues plaguing us today are rightfully addressed in CWRU’s next chapter.