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San Diego State Searches For New President

Members of a committee to hire a new president for San Diego State university...

Photo by Roland Lizarondo

Above: Members of a committee to hire a new president for San Diego State university listen to public comment at a forum in the Parma Payne Goodall Alumni Center on September 25, 2017.

A group of 20 San Diego State University leaders got an earful Monday in their first forum on hiring a new president. About 100 people attended the meeting, and asked for a school leader who prioritizes racial issues, climate change, academic research and school infrastructure.

“Some of the stairs that I walk on going to class, they’re crumbling,” SDSU student Michael Kumara said. “Some of the buildings they look like they haven’t been renovated since 15 years ago, even older than that.”

SDSU’s last president, Elliot Hirshman, stepped down in July to accept a position as president of Stevenson University in Maryland. Sally Roush is serving as interim president. She is the first woman to lead the school.

RELATED: San Diego State President Will Step Down

During Monday’s forum, Hirshman was criticized for a lack of progress on prioritizing diversity and representation among faculty and students.

“SDSU has not achieved progress in Chicano graduate and student enrollment, Chicano faculty hiring and promotion, [the] appointment of Chicano’s in the administration and [making] Chicano curriculum required for all SDSU students,” said Patrick Velasquez, Co-Chair of the Chicano/Latino Concilio on Higher Education at SDSU.

Other concerns voiced at the forum included shrinking class sizes to growing housing units to bolstering transfer programs that benefit low-income students. Those ideas will be taken into consideration by members of the committee, who are tasked with creating a job description for the head of the university.

"Coming from the perspective of journalism, I think my unpolished, one-word thought is transparency," said Bey-Ling Sha, a professor in the SDSU School of Journalism and Media Studies. "You can't tell us everything and we get that, but faculty and staff don't always feel heard because our input is sought. ...It seems to go into this void, and if our input cannot be used for whatever reason, it would be great to have a transparent reason for why that is."

RELATED: Students Call For SDSU President’s Resignation

San Diego-area CSU trustee Adam Day, who chairs the committee, thanked everyone who weighed in on the matter, adding that it is challenging to find a campus president because it involves finding someone with a unique skill set.

"It's very challenging to thread that needle," Day said.

Following public comment, the committee went behind closed doors, where they were expected to discuss the role of the committee in the search process, factor in the input they received during the meeting with what they each find to be the preferred attributes of the next president, as well as to confirm the schedule for future meetings. Over the next several months, the committee will review applications and conduct interviews.

The committee includes trustees Silas Abrego, Lillian Kimbell, Hugo Morales and Rebecca Eisen, plus CSU Chancellor Timothy White. An advisory group that will be part of the committee includes former San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders, Associated Students President Chimezie Ebiriekwe, and Margaret Iwanaga Penrose, president and CEO of the nonprofit Union of Pan Asian Communities. Faculty members and other SDSU officials are also included.

The committee expects to complete the search and appoint a new president by early next year.

The university’s next president will be selected by a special committee. Committee members said they would relay all concerns from the forum to the next president during the hiring process.

The committee said they will review applications and hold interviews over the next several months. They said students can expect a new president by early summer of 2018.

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