Members of the Graduate Student Government made it clear that graduate students do not want to be left behind in the process of selecting the next University president at an open forum held Wednesday afternoon by the University’s presidential search committee.
“I hope we’re not the step-cousin who gets forgotten,” GSG vice president Giri Parameswaran GS said, adding that he would like to see graduate and undergraduate students enter into a discussion on the topic together.
“We are present, we are here,” psychology student Kyle Keller GS added.
After holding its monthly meeting — in which GSG members also discussed Restaurant Week and potential social events — members remained to advise the committee on its impending decision on who should replace University President Shirley Tilghman, who announced she will be stepping down at the end of the academic year.
This was the fourth open forum the search committee held with members of the University community this week. The committee has also met with the Council of the Princeton University Committee, representatives of the local community and University staff members.
GSG president and search committee member Chad Maisel GS opened the meeting by asking students to weigh in on any of three main points: the challenges facing the University over the next several years, the traits and qualities the graduate students would like to see in the next president and whether the students had any specific names for the committee.
Committee members John Diekman ’65 and James Yeh ’87, who are trustees, humanities professor Gideon Rosen GS ’92, physics professor Lyman Page and Jeff Morell ’13 also attended the meeting.
History student Andrew Edwards GS began the conversation by asking what the committee was looking for in making this decision. Maisel claimed that the committee is still in its initial stages and collecting data, but Edwards pushed him by saying he was still “a member of the graduate student population” and asked to hear Maisel’s personal opinion.
“Of course I have thoughts and I will bring that to bear in the discussion, but I think the purpose of this is to reach out to as large of an audience as possible and get your take,” Maisel said.
Edwards later praised Tilghman’s unique dedication to openness and accountability and hoped the committee could find a president that had similar qualities. Likewise, Wilson School student Marco De Leon GS praised Tilghman for putting the University “on a path for prosperity,” he said.
“A lot of things folks talk about is her emphasis on research and I think that, as graduate students, that is particularly important,” De Leon said. “Keeping that continuity is something that I would like to see.”
Page then asked the GSG whether it is important that the new president be an academic.
“I flinched when you said that,” molecular biology student Julie Wittes GS said in response to Page’s question. She said she did not like the idea of a non-academic turning the University into a business. Wittes said she would love to have somebody from within the University become president since he or she would know the University’s dynamic and would be able to keep the culture stable.
Edwards said a non-academic president might make the University unattractive for prospective students.
“It’s a scholarly institution, so it would make sense that it would be a scholar,” he said.
Though the GSG members spoke extensively on the president’s impact on academics, members also wanted to make sure that the new president would maintain a good town-gown relationship.
“[Tilghman] is someone who is deeply invested in the community … she is incredibly accessible. That is a really good quality to have,” music student Carolann Buff GS said.
GSG treasurer Friederike Funk GS added that she didn’t like the “us versus them mentality” between the University and the outside community.
“I don’t want Princeton University to be in this bubble,” she said.
The search committee is expected to give a recommendation to the University Board of Trustees by late March or early April.
Correction: Due to a reporting error, a previous version of this article misstated the name of the organization that represents graduate students. It is the Graduate Student Government. The 'Prince' regrets the error.
Original URL: http://www.dailyprincetonian.com/2012/11/14/31836/