To the Editor:
The University of West Georgia is in the process of finding a new president. The search committee has been announced and it is overwhelminlyg pro-business. This continues the trend of creating an institution that is attractive and marketable, with a quickly developing physical infrastructure. Unfortunately, this is not helping us address the deeper needs of the students to learn and grow—mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
Because we have so many first-generation students, it is absolutely vital for their long-term success, in the widest sense of the word, that we meet them where they are at and help them move along through their developmental process. A cookie-cutter education providing only professional credentials appears to be serving no one here.
Our presidential search committee was formed by the chair of the Board of Regents, who has just a bachelors degree in business and who was himself appointed by a businessman governor. The chair appointed a search committee that only includes business people for the wild-card, non-affiliated spots. Thus, 30 percent of the committee members are pro-business and pro-growth, and without any deeper understanding of higher education. This 30 percent could instead have been other PhDs or even other educators or social workers who know the student population and its needs.
Empowered business leaders tend to command a lot of respect, so I wouldn’t be surprised if the 30-percent pro-business voice is louder than the more gentle voice coming from the academic 70 percent.
How can universities approach serious reform when so many of the most important decisions are being made by leadership from the business world, carrying largely just their bachelors degrees in business, and focused on the bottom-line needs and motivations of the business mind? How can the liberal-arts professor feel empowered to make significant institutional change to better meet the deeper needs of the students and society with such an organizational pull to the superficial and easily measurable?
If academe wants to continue attracting the brightest minds, it is going to have to honor and respect them and support them to fulfill their calling. And if society wants our educational institutions to be places that transform our children to adults and bring more intelligence and heart into society, it is going to have to welcome a more creative role for professors.
Universities must become laboratories in higher consciousness. Otherwise our species and habitat have no chance of survival.
Department of Psychology
University of West Georgia