Recently, University President Claire E. Sterk has increased her public appearances around campus. Though Sterk told the Wheel last year that she planned to be “60 to 70 percent externally focused,” she still has a responsibility to foster campus community and build relationships with Emory students and faculty. Sterk’s recent actions, including office hours with student organizations and the revival of “Conversations on the Quad,” which seeks increase dialogue about social issues on campus, show a commendable effort to that end. While we appreciate the president’s efforts to further engage with the community, we hope that they constitute a broader shift in her accessibility and that she continues to augment her visibility initiatives.
This semester, Sterk created the opportunity for student organizations to schedule 20-minute meetings with her. These meetings are great for clubs who want to submit formal concerns directly to Sterk. However, although 50 student organizations expressed interest in obtaining one of the meeting times, only four student organizations were granted a time slot. Emory hosts more than 375 chartered student organizations, according to its website; four 20-minute sessions are insufficient for Sterk to engage with a significant portion of student groups. The Office of the President told the Wheel that it plans to accommodate all of the groups who expressed interest in meeting with Sterk. We appreciate the president’s willingness to meet with everyone who wants to do so, as these meetings allow students to feel like they have a voice on campus and potentially create impactful change on behalf of their organizations.
The president also hosted and participated in the April 5 “Conversations on the Quad,” an event billed as a conversation among Emory community members to foster a “culture of innovation.” Although the event felt slightly superficial — more like a public relations stunt than an opportunity for meaningful conversation — Sterk’s attendance demonstrated an attempt to increase her public visibility, a goal she told the Wheel about in March in response to calls for more appearances. We hope Sterk continues this trend of attending large, public events where Emory students, faculty and staff openly share their thoughts and people can see their leader participating in our community.
The College of Arts and Sciences promotes itself as an institution replete with the advantages of a small liberal arts college, including a certain level of familiarity with faculty and administrators. While her Sterk’s main job is to raise money for the entire University, she must also be open to hearing student input and should appear as a present, active member of the Emory community. Alternatively, she could ensure that someone — perhaps a dean or Campus Life representative — fills that role.
Former University President James W. Wagner, who retired in August 2016, was often sighted walking around campus, talking to students. A sense of community is an integral part of any university, and Sterk has an important role to play in developing that at Emory.
The above Editorial represents the consensus opinion of the Wheel’s editorial board.
The editorial board is composed of Nora Elmubarak, Andrew Kliewer, Madeline Lutwyche, Boris Niyonzima, Shreya Pabbaraju, Isaiah Sirois.