EDITORIAL: Who should lead the pack?: What we want to see in Loyola’s next president

Jacob L'Hommedieu, Op/Ed Editor

With finals and the end of the fall semester approaching, it’s easy to lose sight of the university’s ongoing search for its next president.

Since Tania Tetlow’s move to Fordham University as its 33rd president, the Rev. Justin Daffron, S.J., has served as Loyola’s interim president until a permanent replacement is found. But what does Loyola expect of the new president?

As stated on the university’s presidential search website, the kind of president they are looking for is one who is “an inspirational and engaging leader who understands the current higher education market, who has extensive leadership and financial experience, who will be a highly effective fundraiser, and who will ensure that Loyola University New Orleans realizes an incredibly bright future.”

From an administrative standpoint, all of that is fine and dandy. Heck, from a student’s perspective, some of this makes sense. Having someone who understands what higher education means and how to provide it to more people would be fantastic qualities to see in a school leader. But we as students have even more streamlined thoughts as to what traits should be prioritized in our future leader.

The top characteristic we would like to see in our next president is someone who is down to earth and accessible. One of the best parts of having Daffron as our school’s interim president is how often he is seen walking around campus interacting with students. Whether it means going between meetings or seeing him playing with his dog, Parleaux, it has been nice to have a leader who has been visible and shown himself to be human.

Someone who is able to communicate effectively with the student body and community is a trait that is necessary for the next president. One thing that we can all agree on is that when Tetlow was president, there was always a new email from her to look at. The fact that she was so transparent with students on what the administration was doing was one of her best traits as president.

Adaptability is another key trait we hope to see in our future president. With how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted Loyola over the past three years, it cannot be understated how necessary the shift from in-person to virtual learning was. However, it is also important to point out how rough the transition was for many of us, teachers and students alike. For professors, managing students online and in-person was tough. For some students, virtual learning allowed for flexibility whenever circumstances arose such as mental health or personal situations, but also presented new difficulties as they adapted to new styles of learning. As stated previously, we want the next president to communicate with us, but it is only a true conversation when both parties listen and respond.

These months in a post-pandemic world have provided us with greater precedence to work with in the event that anything similar happens again. However, it would still be important for this school to have someone who can adapt to extremes like this in order to ensure we get the best education possible. After all, that is what we are paying for.

Hiring someone who will be able to provide an educational experience like no other by being transparent, down-to-earth, and adaptable will benefit and expand our student body.

With all of these characteristics in mind, we would like to make it clear to the university that, above all, we want a president who reflects the student body. We don’t want you to default to tradition and put another Jesuit priest in charge unless they are someone who takes diversity, equity, and inclusion seriously. We need someone who can represent and advocate for the unique community that we have built here at Loyola and will help to cultivate an even better future.