UCR community weighs in on chancellor search

Julia Truong/HIGHLANDER
Julia Truong/HIGHLANDER

A town hall was hosted by five members of the chancellor search advisory committee on Feb. 22 in order to collect public input about the characteristics and experiences desired in UCR’s 14th chancellor. The overall selection process will fall within an estimated six months, where hundreds of high-ranking officials will be considered for the position.

The panelists consisted of Jose Wudka, chair of the Riverside division of the academic senate; Yolanda Moses, associate vice chancellor for diversity, excellence and equity; Neal Schiller, senior associate dean for the School of Medicine; Robert Wolfer, vice president of the UCR staff assembly; Liam Dow, president of the Associated Students of UCR; and Aaron Jones, UCR’s graduate student representative.

Committee members Wudka, Moses and Schniller will form a separate subcommittee, which will make candidate recommendations to the rest of the advisory board by March 4. They will be joined by UC Davis Academic Senate Chair Robert Powell and UCSB Professor of Anthropology Mayfair Yang. By May 6, the advisory committee will further condense the list of possible applicants.

“It is the job of the subcommittee to select a candidate…so that the president is compelled to follow through with the recommendation,” Wudka said about the subcommittee’s role to filter out hundreds of qualified candidates.

Organized by UC President Mark Yudof, the 17-member advisory committee consists of UC regents, students, staff, faculty and ex-officios. Yudof had expressed a desire for a UCR chancellor to be selected by July—just one month before he is expected to step down as UC president.

Wudka said that the deadline is informal and will not modify the chancellor search, even if recommendations are made after August. “We’re not going to shortchange the campus just because we’ve made the assumption about a deadline,” said Wudka.

With the attendance of many first-year students, faculty and ASUCR senators, the event was an informal exchange among a room of 30 to 40. Members of the audience referred to a desired chancellor as a person who needed to display an independent voice apart from the shared governance with UCOP, while being tuned in to the needs of the student body.

ASUCR Senator Ahlam Jadallah described the features that she wanted from a chancellor as someone who could relate to the struggles of underrepresented students and nurture personal ambitions on campus. “It would be cool if the chancellor could come and kind of challenge our way of thinking [about] different issues that we don’t usually go to class to learn about,” she said.

UCR Chemistry Professor Tom Morton stated that there were “fundamental limitations” to a chancellor who came from a professional school and were not accustomed to a teaching background.

Other characteristics that audience members, such as ASUCR Senator Emmanuel Alloh, sought for included a person with “approachability and experience working with a large group of students.” He explained how expanding greater lines of accessibility to the chancellor will empower the student body in the footsteps of former Chancellor Timothy White.

Schiller promptly responded by stating that the new chancellor would need to cultivate that kind of campus culture during their term.

“I think it’s very important for a chancellor to not just outreach to a student, but to understand and respect them. I think outreaching to all of the different colleges and try to unify us as a school more is very important,” stated ASUCR Senator Megan Crail about the need to increase student trust and pride on campus.

Soon after, an audience member asked the panel what their highest priority was when searching for a chancellor. In response, Schiller said the advisory committee is meeting with large stakeholders to hear more recommendations.

Schiller described the multidimensional campus with professional and graduate programs and continuing aspirations for the campus to become a member of Association of American Universities (AAU)—an association of nearly 60 leading universities in North America.

“We need a chancellor who really manages respect of the faculty on the campus, so they need to have a portfolio that establishes them as a clear leader,” said Morton about the need for statute in a leader. “We need someone who represents us to the highest degree, that we are a campus on the move…and we need a chancellor that supports that mission.”

Along a similar note, UCR Assistant Vice Chancellor of Strategic Communications James Grant said, “It’s possible to be world class no matter where you are. I think it would be great to have a leader who embraces that. So to me, it’s someone who can develop a sense of place and embrace the differences within the Inland Empire.”

In align with the distinguishing features of the region, the Inland Empire has approximately 40 primary care physicians and 70 specialists per 100,000 residents—the lowest of any region in the state of California.

Members of the audience voiced their opinions about the role the next chancellor should play in the community. Some members felt that the next chancellor should help improve health disparities in the region and state by expanding more interdisciplinary research.

When Wudka asked what would be the best measure of success when selecting a chancellor, students proposed that they wanted UCR to be a campus of choice.

Jones reiterated that the marketing initiatives to rebrand UCR will highlight featured accomplishments on campus.

Another student, first-year political science major Fernando Echevarria, was skeptical about the ability for campus administrators to brand the campus, which remained highly contingent on the relationship between the future chancellor and the community.

Schniller explained the impact of graduate and professional schools to the surrounding region. He commented on the unique mission statement of the campus, which could be to improve the quality of life for the Inland Empire.

Notably, Hispanic Studies Professor Raymond Williams spoke of his clear desires for a chancellor with “visionary thinking for a comprehensive campus that’s a nice place to be.” He noted that the surrounding climate can be a “difficult place to survive in” and out-of-box thinking was required to make the overall campus more appealing. He argued that the retention of faculty members is correlated with the quality of life.

Abraham Galvan Sanchez, a first-year political science major with a concentration in law and society briefly explained his expectations for UCR’s next chancellor. “I would really like to see someone…who has made significant progress in his or her own community. [If] we keep emphasizing the fact that our students are involved in the community, then our chancellor should also be involved in that community.”

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