About 10 people attended the presidential search town hall last Monday, along with 10 members of the Presidential Search Committee. The committee held the town hall to gather input and advice from students, faculty, staff, and alumni, which they will use to define the presidential role at U of T.
In March, Richard B. Nunn, the chair of the Governing Council—the highest governing body of U of T—announced that the Governing Council’s Executive Committee had decided to extend the appointment of Naylor’s term as president to December 31. The university then issued a call for nominations for members of the search committee.
David Wilson, the chair of the committee and the former chair of the Business Board of the Governing Council, presided over the town hall. Accompanying him was Louis Charpentier, the secretary of the committee and the former secretary of the Governing Council, and other members of the committee, which is made up of alumni, full- and part-time undergraduate students, graduate students, and teaching staff.
Some of the committee members in attendance were Donald Ainslie (teaching staff), Maydianne Andrade (teaching staff), John Switzer (alumnus), and Jake Brockman (full-time undergraduate).
Some of the stakeholders from whom the committee is seeking feedback were faculty members (including Holger Syme, the chair of UTM’s English department), representatives from the Office of Advancement (including Andrew Stelmacovich, the executive director of advancement), Devin Kreuger (the director of UTM’s Office of the Vice-Principal Research), Linda Kohn (a biology professor and a representative of the U of T Faculty Association), and Michael Meth (an economics librarian and the director of UTM’s Li Koon Chun Finance Learning Centre. No student stakeholders attended.
Kohn was the first to offer input. She voiced her concern that the new president should be able to see UTM and UTSC as “vibrant, growing places with changing missions, changing demographics, and excellence”.
“I’ve been here long enough to know that the suburban campuses are not always treated with respect by the St. George faculty,” said Kohn. “We want a president who will come out to see us and find out about us and start with an open mind about us.”
“There’s a big, strong need for community building,” said Meth. “There needs to be one U of T.” He said he was sad to see that more of the UTM community didn’t attend the town hall to provide input to the committee.
Meth also touched on U of T’s relationship with the provincial government when he brought up the discussion paper “Strengthening Ontario’s Centres of Creativity, Innovation and Knowledge”, released by Glen Murray, Ontario’s Minister of Training, Colleges, and Universities.
When Brockman posed the question of whether the new president must be someone who has studied or worked at U of T, the consensus around the table was that “it doesn’t matter” so long as that person is the best person for the job.
When Wilson asked whether the best person to be the new president would be “someone from the academic community”, the group listened to Syme point out that it would be “difficult” if the new president were not a member of the academy, as there are many “idiosyncrasies” involved. He said that it would be hard to bridge a division between the faculty and the leadership in such a case.
“Those of you who are academics across the table know how hard we are to deal with,” Syme joked.
“I think—as we said before—ultimately, we want the best candidate,” said Meth near the end of the discussion. “I think we want someone who has the ability to be a big-picture thinker, the ability to synthesize, understand the structure, [who] has the intellectual depth and also curiosity to work in a system that way.
“And if we can identify, or more importantly, if you can identify someone who fits that bill, then they just have to be a person who ideally fits the bill,” he added. “It doesn’t matter what they look like, [or] who they are. It doesn’t make a difference so far as I’m