Only about 30 of more than 13,000 undergraduate students were in attendance at this week’s presidential search public forum, a laudable attempt by the Student Government Association and the presidential search committee to involve students in the process of choosing Tech’s new leader.
Such a small showing speaks poorly of the student body, which should be more engaged and less apathetic about a decision that has important implications leading up to and beyond graduation.
However, reasons other than apathy lie behind the low attendance record. For one, information on the forum was primarily distributed through a campus wide e-mail, a method that has slowly lost meaning. Since classes started in the fall, over 25 messages have been sent on subjects ranging from CPR training to mystery theatre, leading many to click delete before bothering to read the content of the messages.
For many students who did read the entire email, they found they could not miss class or work to attend the meetings, which were held during the middle of the day in a less than visible location. Others felt confident enough in the process that brought Wayne Clough to Tech 14 years ago and thought they had no valuable expertise to contribute.
More importantly, however, this week’s forum may have come too early in the process to incite enough interest in the student body, and it unfortunately appears that there are no future plans to introduce the final three candidates selected to the Tech community.
While at that point student and faculty input may not have much weight on the outcome, presenting these individuals would be an inclusive gesture that would make us all feel like part of the process. Bringing months of closed-door meetings out into the open and allowing everyone to put a face to the name of the individual who may become the future president of Tech would be appreciated by all members of campus.
Despite these reasons and the hope that we will be given a second chance in the future to be a part of the process, Wednesday’s forum still succeeded in letting students in on the conversation, and the handful of engaged students who attended were able to ask constructive questions and make helpful contributions.
We should not forget that the new president, whoever he is, will have a direct impact during both our tenure at Tech and during the years following graduation when the added value of a degree from the Institute will matter most. We have a vested interest and cannot afford to be indifferent.