The next president: Why students should care

With President James Harder retiring at the end of June, Bluffton University is on the hunt for someone to fill the position. Two final candidates have visited campus and interviewed within the last week. 

President Harder has been the president at Bluffton since 2006. In his time as president, he has helped Bluffton through some tough times. For instance, the baseball team’s bus crash in 2007; after the incident, he helped create the Circle of Remembrance, which is a memorial for the people involved in the accident.

Harder has also made some improvements on campus in his 12 years as president. He has added academic programs, renovated the residence halls, added new accessibility upgrades to the Musselman Library and more.

But, why should students care about the new presidential candidates?

Julie DeGraw, the dean of students, had a clear answer: “The President is responsible for setting the overall goals and focus for the university.”

“Policies and residence hall improvements (among other things) are two areas I know students care very much about, so I think having input on what the president might have as their focus should be of interest to students.”

Most students do not realize how much a president can impact the direction of the university. The wrong candidate could potentially knock Bluffton off the course that President Harder has put us in. But, the right candidate could keep improving Bluffton.

The president of the university is in charge of most of what goes on around campus. They should be a leader and have good organizational skills, as well as trust the faculty and staff to do their jobs.

Going along with that, the new president should embody the four core values – discovery, community, respect and service – of the university. These are what every new incoming student is taught. If the president of the university does not think it is important to embody those, then the students themselves would not think they are important.

Going along those lines, the presidential candidate should agree with and believe in the university’s mission statement.

The statement is as follows: “Bluffton University seeks to prepare students of all backgrounds for life as well as vocation, for responsible citizenship, for service to all peoples and, ultimately, for the purposes of God’s universal kingdom.”

The university has built a good reputation around that mission statement, so the candidates should want to maintain the reputation that the mission statement and school has already built for itself.

Many students may think that there is no student involvement in the presidential search. When in fact senior Katey Ebaugh is the one student representative on the committee. Her job on the committee is to accurately represent the whole student body of Bluffton.

“My position is to also see into the future of Bluffton and where we want it to go, as well as what changes need to be made, and to give input when best in the meetings,” said Ebaugh.

Students should care because they are a part of the community here at Bluffton.

The next president will have a strong influence in the direction that the community goes. Each candidate will have different aspects in which they will want to try to improve Bluffton. So, as a student you should want those aspects to be something that will improve your education and life while at Bluffton. Students should also care because if the prospective president does not share the same beliefs or values as they do, then there could be tension or unnecessary stress.


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Trent Mast

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