Sonoma State University’s next president needs to be a visionary who understands the complexities of funding higher education in California but relates well to students. Those were some of the ideas expressed by students and faculty Thursday at a meeting to get campus input on the naming of a successor for President Ruben Armiñana.
Faculty, students, alumni and community members came together in the first official presidential search meeting on Thursday to brainstorm what qualities they want to see in the next president along with what they want to see at Sonoma State in the future. In attendance at the meeting was CSU Chancellor Timothy White and Sonoma State Associated Students President Brandon Mercer.
The advisory committee is also asked community members to nominate candidates for the next president they believe would be a good leader. The board who talked to the public included members of the selection committee, members of the advisory committee and search firm members. They started by addressing the board with a timeline of the selection process and then made the meeting open for questions from the public.
The most commonly discussed topic at the forum was the issue of diversity on campus. Many agreed there is a lack of diversity in students along with faculty at Sonoma State and community members would like to see a change in that. The campus and local community hopes the next president will emphasize the importance of ethnic groups being supported along with more diverse ethnic studies departments.
“If you want the very best president that wants diversity of gender, race and age on our campus then we need a diverse pool of candidates,” said White.
Other issues the community is concerned about is the state of classrooms at Sonoma State. When new students come to campus for a tour they are shown the Recreation Center, dorms and Student Center but never classrooms. Those in attendance of the meeting said the university needs more labs and twenty-first century technology. They believe these modern classrooms can support the observation and learning that is essential for students’ education.
According to those who spoke at the meeting, one of the most important things in college is to strengthen academic programs such as the arts department, not just the sciences. These members also believe that getting the Green Music Center more involved with the campus so that it can reach the goals it was built for.
The campus community would also like to see a president that has a strong focus on budget and trying to avoid layoffs of faculty as much as possible. They said the president should have a personal commitment of graduating students in four years debt free. Those in attendance believe candidates should be able to visit the campus before being elected as president so they can see the lives of students at Sonoma State University.
“I brought my students to this meeting and as freshman they are already worried about the issue of money and whether they will be able to graduate in four years,” said Bruce Peterson, professor of university studies.
Associated Students representatives spoke on behalf of the students and offered that they want a president that understands the importance on graduating in four years. The student representatives wish to see a president who wants a shared governanc, meaning students have more of a say in where their money is going. Students want to have the goal be shifted from profit for the university to the education.
The new president of Sonoma State will be named on Jan. 27, 2016.