By Casey S. Elliott
Touching on topics ranging from university finances to graduation, President Roderick J. McDavis spent an hour on “The Party Line” radio show Thursday.
McDavis takes part in the hour-long broadcast on WATH every month, answering questions posed by WATH Inc. President Dave Palmer and deejay Ray Wagner.
Thursday’s session involved questions about university finances, the search for a new executive vice president and provost, commencement and communications with faculty, the board and administrative staff. What follows is a sampling of topics from his interview.
With tight economic times continuing, the university’s budget continues to be a major focus for administrators and the president. McDavis said he is “cautiously optimistic” about the state budget and increased funding for the university, though final numbers may not be known until June.
“From everything we’re hearing, the (Ohio) Senate will remain consistent with the state share of instruction part of the budget – the higher education part of the budget,” he said. “(That increase) is unheard of across the country. Other universities and university systems are taking a 10 to 15 percent cut.”
McDavis acknowledged his disappointment over Palmerfest, and added that others in the community – including students – have spoken up against the weekend’s events.
“Since my first year here, I have been talking about personal and civic responsibility ad nauseam, to the point I have been criticized for talking about it so much,” he said. “We imposed a tough policy on underage drinking. We took a no-nonsense approach to it in the Division of Student Affairs. We were disappointed, there’s no question about it. But if the estimates are correct, there were between 6,000 and 10,000 students there, and not all of those students were engaged in the inappropriate behavior. And it wasn’t all Ohio University students – there were students from out-of-town and guests from who knows where.
“I understand the anger in the community – I’ve been focusing on (this issue) in the five years I’ve been here. A lot of voices of anger are coming from students, many of our student leaders spoke out against it,” he added. “For me, this is a teachable moment. Let’s take advantage of this opportunity, teach our students what’s appropriate and what’s inappropriate.”
McDavis said the university has an excellent pool of candidates from which to choose a successor to Executive Vice President and Provost Kathy Krendl, who is leaving in July to become president of Otterbein College. The top candidate, Pam Benoit, vice provost for advanced studies and dean of the graduate school at the University of Missouri, has been invited back for a more in-depth interview with constituent groups and deans next week.
“Some of the groups didn’t get a long time to spend with each of the candidates. I felt we should take the one who seemed to make the most positive impression initially and bring her back for a second session for conversation with some of the critical groups she would be working with,” he said.
McDavis added the university has other options if the right candidate isn’t found – an interim provost could be appointed, for example.
“Obviously, (the appointment) would be my decision, but I want the candidate that will be best for Ohio University,” he added.
McDavis said commencement ceremonies are always special. This year, Ohio University alumnus and renowned photographer Herman Leonard will serve as commencement speaker on June 13.
“There are two days on campus that are my favorite times of the year,” McDavis said. “First is the introduction, the convocation ceremony in the fall, where we welcome 4,000-plus new students to campus. The day that even exceeds that is commencement – we know that 4,000 lives have been made better by the education they received at Ohio University. That brings together all of the work the faculty, the staff, and every employee at the university has done, and they see the fruit of their labor.”
The full interview can be heard via podcast (clicking this link will take you outside the university’s Web site) here.