As was announced yesterday afternoon, the Arizona Board of Regents has presented what they’re calling a presidential “candidate” for the position vacated by Robert Shelton last July. In a very different process than how the past few presidents have been selected, the Board announced Ann Weaver Hart, current president of Temple University, as their first choice for UA President. According to the press release, “Hart will visit the UA campus on Feb. 13 to meet with students, faculty, staff, administrators and members of the public before the Board makes its final decision on the UA presidential candidacy.”
Who is Dr. Ann Weaver Hart? The Regents emphasized her accomplishments as president of University of New Hampshire and her latest position at Temple, from which she announced her departure in September. Their press release noted that Dr. Hart “increased undergraduate and graduate applications while raising the academic qualifications of incoming students” as well as “improved thefreshman retention rate and time to degree.” These are both timely concerns the Regents are well-founded in bringing to the UA.
As the Wildcat editorial board also noted, the process to select this president is curiously different from the last few within memory. Traditionally, several finalists in the presidential search were paraded about campus, impressions were made, and only after input from faculty and student organizations would a decision be made. Now, the Regents are effectively imposing a decision, and it’s unclear what would happen if Dr. Hart’s visit to the UA doesn’t go well. The assumed rationale behind this change is that any candidate worth having wouldn’t take well to being announced with several other names. However, the difference in this process — and its lack of both student and faculty representation, including no representatives from GPSC — will be interesting to remember as the result of the Hart selection becomes apparent.
Though her goals of higher admissions standards and higher graduation rates are admirable and timely, there are certainly aspect of Dr. Hart’s professional tenure that aren’t on the press release. Her administration had multiple encounters with the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, first at the University of New Hampshire for evicting a student from his dorm because of one of his posters. Dr. Hart also dealt with FIRE during her tenure at Temple for trying to implement an arbitrary “security fee” for certain events. Under Dr. Hart, Temple University lost a lawsuit when the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit issued a ruling declaring Temple University’s former sexual harassment policy to be unconstitutional.
This quote from Dr. Hart is especially interesting given that there were no representative of the Graduate and Professional Student Council on the committee that selected her:
Ann Weaver Hart, the president of Temple University, told Inside Higher Ed that boosting graduate education and research should be part of a larger strategy. “High-quality undergraduate education is crucial,” she said. “This is just part of that continuum.” She said that while foreign competitiveness is increasing, she also felt that a certain complacency in the U.S. was responsible for the “lost ground” referred to in the graduate council’s report and others.
She also implied that the student loan practices prominent in the headlines recently could affect graduate school, too. “If we’re skimming off profits, we’re not advancing the interests of graduate and undergraduate students,” she said.
Will faculty and students approve the Regents’ single presidential “candidate”? It seems unlikely that univalent presidential race will bear much meaningful input from anyone who wasn’t a part of the decision that’s already been made.