President Roderick McDavis attended the Graduate Student Senate meeting Tuesday evening to speak with its members and answer questions regarding facilities, the administration and the presidential search.
He began by commending GSS for hosting the OHIO Leaders Forum, an event in which politically-active alumni spoke about obtaining and utilizing specific leadership skills. He also thanked Senate for its active participation in the CATS initiative regarding inclusion within the university, particularly referencing the recent graffiti wall controversy.
“While I’m all about freedom of speech — I’m totally for it — some of the things that appeared on the wall, for me, were totally offensive,” McDavis said.
A campus-wide committee has officially been appointed to cut down on diversity-related issues, one that integrates GSS and the other four legislative bodies on campus, Faculty Senate, Student Senate, Administrative Senate and Classified Senate. McDavis then referenced a list of questions covering common graduate student concerns GSS had previously compiled.
One subject that arose was limited student parking spaces and related disadvantages. While McDavis stressed the administration is aware of and understands the issue, he pointed out the difficulties of establishing new lots.
“One of the things that makes Ohio University such a unique and beautiful place is that we have so much green space on campus,” McDavis said. He assured students that there are plans in place to move forward in creating more space without compromising the campus aesthetic.
Because McDavis is preparing to leave OU in June, he looked back upon his 13-year presidency when one student senator asked for a defining moment in his tenure. After a moment of thought, McDavis settled on the campus culture change he believes he helped to initiate.
OU has long been seen as a party school, a reputation many university associates have recently been looking to escape, according to McDavis. He said he has worked hard to diffuse the party school image and build up an academic image instead, and hopes that this will be his legacy — making the school a more educationally-focused institution.
As GSS held a long discussion in its last meeting about controversial speaker Milo Yiannopoulos’s upcoming visit, the topic of what the administration is doing to handle the situation quickly arose.
“We are open to people presenting different points of view, whether we like them or we don’t,” McDavis said. The administration chose not to take a position in regards to the visit. When asked what “unfinished business” he would like the next university president to continue, McDavis chuckled.
“This work is never finished. I’m the 20th president, and it’s funny — when the last president left, I asked him the same thing,” McDavis said.
He had a list of three main focuses for his successor; refurbishing buildings and updating all academic buildings to “21st century mode” was his primary concern. He believes renovating buildings would create a more conducive environment not only for students to learn, but also for professors to effectively teach. McDavis also expressed concern about helping OU become a more welcoming campus.
“We have worked hard over the past 13 years to become a more diverse campus, but I’m not sure that we are as welcoming as we need to be,” McDavis said.
Overall, the president’s wish for the future of the university is to continue improving the quality of its academic programs, both undergraduate and graduate, while also ensuring the comfort and safety of all students.