Students apathetic to chancellor search

Of the three students who attended the chancellor search listening session Wednesday, one was a student senator and a member of the Search and Screen Committee, one was public relations director of Student Senate and one randomly wandered into Schofield, unaware of the session altogether.

Bob Hooper, chair of the committee, said students missed an opportunity to affect a process that soon will be solely in the hands of the committee.

“After November first, a lot of the business of (the university) is going to be done in private,” he said.

The committee has called for public input to help establish the criteria for who they select as the five finalists for the chancellorship of UW-Eau Claire.

Opinions on why students failed to attend varied widely between committee members, student leaders and students in general, with explanations including time constraints, a lack of understanding and awareness and general apathy.

Junior Holly Moe said she personally was unaware of the session. Whether the event was not publicized enough or students simply didn’t pay attention, she said, is debatable.

Whatever the reason, Moe said she doesn’t think the chancellor search is a process that resonates with students.

“I don’t think many students feel connected to the chancellor,” she said. “Students need to know how it relates to them and how it affects their lives.”

While university news outlets previewed the event, junior Ali Shuda said a mass e-mail may have helped increase student awareness.

Student Senate President Aaron Olson said he and Student Senate were aware of the meeting, but he had a meeting at the time of the session.

While he said he could not speak for other senators or students in general, he suspects many students simply are adjusting to their semester and couldn’t make the session a priority.

He emphasized the importance of the chancellor search and said he looks forward to hearing Hooper’s upcoming presentation before Senate.

“As Student Senate president, this is very important – one of the most important things we could do,” he said. “I’m excited that we get to express our opinions at the Student Senate meeting.”

Student Senator and committee member Jeff Baldovin, one of the three who attended the meeting, said he thinks many students doubt their opinions will make a difference in the committee’s ultimate selections.

“I think students don’t understand that their opinions are going to be heard,” he said. “It’s frustrating to me … (students) are the ones that come here. It’s their school.”

Hooper said his plans to attend Student Senate, as well as his regular attendance at University Senate, are part of his efforts to maintain an open dialogue with university employees and students.

The student component of that dialogue, he said, is critical to select a chancellor who is connected to students, which is important at a student-centered university like Eau Claire.

“It’s a different kind of university,” Hooper said. “I think we need a chancellor (who) supports that.”

Students aren’t the only constituency that isn’t actively participating in the process, he said. University faculty and staff also have been relatively inactive.

“Student turnout is not a whole lot worse than faculty and staff,” he said.

Hooper credited that inactivity to a lack understanding of the search-and-screen process.

“I don’t think the campus community at this point in time understands the process,” he said.

Many members of the “campus community,” he said, may be waiting to express their views until the finalists are announced in January, something he advised against.

The committee already has met with Eau Claire community members and the Chamber of Commerce and has a meeting with area legislators slated for Monday.