The Griffin Editorial: Stoute, Students
By Patrick Healy
Stoute’s presidential persona solidifying
During February’s public forums for president, this column posed a question to then-candidate Stoute he would likely have to answer if named president: “Your career has followed a remarkably similar trajectory [to Hurley’s] to this point. How will you distinguish yourself from a president who has been largely successful with alumni and donors but not so popular among students and faculty?”
An answer is beginning to take shape.
In last week’s address to the student senate, Stoute pitched himself as an educator. He suggested that he might teach a section of the First Year Experience class next year. He spoke on behalf of all staff and faculty, saying that “we can do better” at “engag[ing] in your life as a student outside of the classroom.” The president is even playing the part of a professor: with his “Together We Rise: Community Conversations” initiative, he is essentially offering office hours.
A student senator commented that they felt President Hurley was fundraising-first, student engagement-second. Stoute, without throwing his predecessor under the bus, said somewhat ruefully that “I have to be the chief fundraiser, the chief alumni engagement officer. I have to do those things in order to support your experience.” But, the president preached, “equally important is being with you . . . that’s what I love about my job.”
Stoute is moving quickly to overcome his weaknesses—or “challenges,” as he prefers. His first hire was a new student dean (and apparent best friend) in Dr. Harold Fields. The new president has expanded the senior administration and appointed Fr. Joseph McShane, S.J., a prominent former Jesuit college president, as a special assistant. He shows up at events unannounced. He even created an endearingly bland Instagram account.
Yet, his public addresses speak only to his personality and administrative capacity. Next week, he faces his first Board of Trustees quarterly meetings. Concrete matters of tuition, admissions and fiscal priorities are sure to arise. Will he speak to Trustees the same as he did the student senate? Will he push them to invest more in the faculty and staff who he credits for solid retention rates and US news rankings, and ask them for requisite funds to fulfill the commitments he made to the senate?
Stoute is reshaping how Canisius presidents look, who they interact with and what activities they do. It’s to be seen if he will change what they choose. -PH
Kudos to Canisians fresh and familiar
Call it post-Covid craze. Or new-president passion. Whatever the name, it’s real and seemingly sustained. First-year students are getting involved. Apathy is abating even among upperclassmen.
We’re journalists, not statisticians, but even we understand that increased involvement is likely a confluence of factors. Masks are off, which allows us to see the ever-present face of a new president. The parking situation is being resolved, imbuing us with dreams of getting to class on time. Energetic new employees like Jason Francey, combined with the steady hands of long-time employees like Elaine and Al from Student Life, make the student life experience better than even pre-Covid times.
Looking in The Griffin’s online archive, we see that every generation complains of apathy. If you think Covid made us different, think again. Student leaders of the early 2000s—when we were being born—complained that, because of computers, Canisius should rebrand as “where leaders are made—in their pajamas.”
We are grateful for the activity of our fellow student leaders, and feel compelled to note it now before we all again revert to social hermits.
We tip our hats to seniors like Ben Deakin, who kept the Commuter Student Association alive during Covid and continues to plan well-run events. Juniors such as Hawa Saleh didn’t let starting at Canisius during Covid-19 prevent them from being the most active contingent in senate. Sophomores like Ahmad Jandel of the Residence Hall Association have jumped into leadership positions already. And freshmen are inarguably the most active class on campus this year.
President Stoute often speaks of creating a “culture of engagement,” but students should be proud of maintaining one while administration was cutting employees and many of the remaining faculty were teaching online in 2020.
Another Stoutian saying is that he doesn’t focus so much on being the first Canisius president of color and more about his hope that he isn’t the last. Seniors at The Griffin, and surely seniors of other clubs as well, are similarly focused on our desire that we are not the last leaders of our organizations. We worked hard to preserve the institutional knowledge of those organizations and ensure that students who arrived during Covid-19 did not allow their stinky situation to permanently sour student life.
After three years of pessimism, the instinctual worry is that freshmen enthusiasm will fade, that the graduation of the last pre-Covid class will gut us. The Griffin knows it won’t. And our confidence has nothing to do with the new president. -PH