Rambler Endorses Bruno for President

Staff Editorial

During the past week, the Rambler has dedicated its time largely to becoming informed on the final candidates for Transylvania University’s next president. We have reviewed all the materials provided by the university on both candidates and have attended both candidates’ student forums in order to collect as much information as possible. The following are aspects of each candidate’s résumé and campus appearance that stood out to us.

The first candidate, Dr. Joseph Bruno, who currently serves as vice president of academic affairs and provost at Wesleyan University, obtained his doctorate in organometallic chemistry from Northwestern University. In his open letter of interest, he expresses a genuine love for the liberal arts ideals so deeply engrained here at Transylvania. He not only expresses an appreciation for and belief in the liberal arts, but he actually cites instances of direct action he has taken to promote the liberal arts model of education. For example, he represented liberal arts colleges from across the nation in giving a keynote address in Taiwan. In this address he explained the benefits of the liberal arts to the country, which was looking to implement American educational principles.

Additionally, Bruno has several years of experience not only as a professor but as a member of academic administration. In his time as vice president of academic affairs, he has had experience developing and implementing strategic plans in the academic sector, which have included plans to aid the arts and relieve financial strains at Wesleyan, among several others.

Bruno’s commitment to diversity shone in his letter.

He touted the importance of diversity saying, “We must affirm the notion that diversity is not merely a supplement to an engaged learning community, but is an essential feature of such a group.”

However, he not only expressed his dedication to diversity, but he provided evidence of his taking action to boost diversity on his campus. Among other things, he began a group to develop a Middle Eastern studies program and, when he and the science faculty realized their failure to recruit women and minority faculty, he assembled a group to discuss unintended bias in the hiring process. He now meets with the selection committee before every hiring decision to ensure that such biases do not get in the way.

The second candidate, Dr. Owen Williams, who currently serves as a professor of history at Yale University, obtained his doctorate in history from the same institution in 2009. His open letter is impressive, emphasizing ties to such prestigious universities as Yale, Harvard University, the University of Cambridge and Dartmouth College. Williams’ main experience, however, lies in the business sector. In the past, he has served as senior managing director at Bear Stearns & Company and executive director at Goldman Sachs and Company, among others. He has experience implementing strategic plans in the business sector and helping to raise millions of dollars. Indeed, he focuses on his fundraising abilities in his letter, claiming that he would have the necessary qualifications to boost Transylvania’s endowment.

While the majority of his experience is in business, he said at the student forum yesterday that he is “by nature a teacher” and is “seriously dedicated to education.” He expressed an appreciation of Transylvania’s history, citing the namesake of his own fellowship, Cassius Marcellus Clay, who graduated from Transylvania. Additionally, he emphasized his commitment to diversity issues, citing his own academic work, which focuses on understanding slavery and racism. He also pinpointed the beginning of his commitment to sustainability as a 1969 river fire that particularly impacted him.

Both these candidates are highly qualified for the position of Transylvania University president. That said, however, we are disappointed at the conventionality of the choice for candidates. We would have liked to have seen a female or other minority candidate, as we find it hard to believe that such qualified candidates were not available. We would have liked the search committee to be more transparent in its decision-making process, clearly explaining how it arrived at these two candidates over others.

While it is clear that both candidates have qualifications that would benefit Transylvania in monumental ways, the Rambler, after careful consideration and debate, hereby endorses Dr. Joseph Bruno for Transylvania’s next president. Both spoke impressively at their respective student forums, with Williams taking an edge over Bruno for his easy-going and personable manner. However, Bruno’s experience working in academic administration better prepares him for the position. Williams, while impressive and undoubtedly sound in his financial experience, could be a risky choice. Not that he could not potentially take Transylvania in exciting new directions, but his heavy background in the business sector could put him at risk for treating Transylvania too much like a business. Bruno promises a balance between business and our university’s values and initiatives. He has shown that he will not only voice his agreement with our initiatives but will take quick and direct action toward meeting our goals and advancing and promoting the liberal arts ideals we hold so dear.


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