Editorial: New senior vice president needs to be open, honest

Editorial Board

As the university gets closer to selecting its new senior vice president for Student Affairs, it is important to consider the kind of qualities that students need in the person who fills that role. This senior vice president is in charge of every area of students’ lives outside the classroom — including housing, dining, activities and health services.

The three finalists — Martino Harmon, who is the current associate vice president for Student Affairs at Iowa State; Lori Reesor, who is the vice president for Student Affairs at North Dakota at Grand Forks; and Al Thompson, who is the vice chancellor for Student Affairs and chief diversity officer for Wisconsin at Stevens Point — are beginning to give their interviews and final presentations at open forums here at Iowa State.

Instead of endorsing a specific candidate, The Daily felt as though highlighting the desirable qualities in a Student Affairs leader from a student perspective for the search committee, similar to what it has done for other vacant prominent university positions, was more beneficial. Overall, the next vice president for Student Affairs should possess qualities that will make the person accessible and relatable as well as understanding of students.

First, it is important that the next person to head the Office of Student Affairs understands Iowa State’s recent history. In the last few years, ISU students have experienced the loss of a time-honored tradition in Veishea after a riot just off campus and this year’s tensions after the Cy-Hawk tailgate when students of color started being heard about their safety concerns on campus. Another group of students questioned whether their First Amendment rights were being limited with the NORML ISU lawsuit and established free-speech zones while everyone at the university experienced unprecedented growth in the number of students.

These experiences, and many more, could color the way they look at ISU students, as well as how they look at new issues and events on campus. It is important that the next leader of student affairs understands this when it comes time to work on current or new issues that arise on campus.

Second, the next senior vice president for Student Affairs should be able to effectively communicate with students and be available, especially over social media. While this sounds obvious, millennial college students have a different communication style than professionals from another generation. Students prefer instant communication and use of social media, Twitter in particular, to share information.

Additionally, the new senior vice president should be someone who can be open, honest and direct with students. Students deserve to know what is happening with their own administration and school, for which they pay tuition. Choosing someone who can be honest and straightforward with students should be a priority.

Lastly, it is important that whoever is selected for the position has a diverse background in many different areas of student affairs. Because the position encompasses so many different areas such as housing and dining, it is important the new vice president has a variety of experiences in these areas.

Tom Hill, the previous senior vice president for Student Affairs, retired at the end of the fall 2015 semester. The candidates’ on-campus presentations and open forums will conclude after the last one on Feb. 3.