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Diversity should be on the board’s mind during new president search

The following piece, written by the editorial editors, reflects the majority opinion of the editorial board.

On Friday, President David Hodge announced his intention to retire June 30, 2016. In the meantime, Miami's Board of Trustees will conduct a nationwide search for the next university president.

From 1809 to 2015, Miami has become a well-respected institution in several areas of higher education. However, it has done this under the leadership of almost two centuries of white male presidents, with the exception of a seven-month period from 1995-6.

As the Board of Trustees look to continue this upward trajectory, we hope they will broaden their search to a more diverse pool of candidates.

Lately, women have ascended to powerful positions in Miami's administration, yet have remained one step shy of assuming the historically male-dominated leadership roles. Miami has a female dean, provost and vice president, but 20 white men have served as the school's figurehead - the highest position.

In Associated Student Government, the trend persists. Many women have run and served as student body vice president, but last female ASG president was Erin O'Donnell in 1996.

Still, a lot has changed in a decade, when Board of Trustees last had to fill a presidential vacancy.

Since then, other Ohio universities, like the University of Cincinnati and Ohio State, have clearly broadened their searches, hiring an Asian American and African American president, respectively.

The pool of applicants for this job is more diverse than ever before. Miami must take advantage of that.

When considering candidates, Miami needs to pursue diversity aggressively. Selecting a candidate with a more diverse background will strengthen the university's relationship with all students.

An administration that doesn't understand or embrace diversity could alienate members of the student body and faculty.

An article published in The Miami Student in April described how this divide exists within ASG.

"I don't think that students of diverse/minority populations feel that their voices are heard by ASG," said Student Senator and ASG Parliamentarian Ifeolu Claytor.

The same disconnect exists at a higher administrative level.

On Saturday, April 4, two Miami students vandalized a bulletin board in Wells Hall, using offensive racist and sexist language, among other things. The university reacted and the students withdrew.

However, many people felt that the university should be more proactive in eliminating a culture that spawns this kind of behavior than reacting to one that causes it. Perhaps an administration led by more diverse perspectives will make eliminating that atmosphere a priority.

If Miami were to select an individual other than a white male, that person would naturally be more attentive to groups that feel their voices are not heard.

We want a president who is willing to be passionate and be a leader who listens to the people he or she oversees, rather than someone who simply cleans up the messes that could have been prevented in the first place.

That sort of authenticity is something we hope our next president has.

Although all former Miami presidents have been qualified, a more diverse president could potentially expand the "Oxford Bubble," something that can't exactly be popped, but can still be stretched.

We need someone to come and expand that bubble, so we can be more equipped for the future, not just the present or the past.

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