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Community to Have Its Say in TU Presidential Search

Search committee hosts Monday town hall to gather community input.

officials will meet with community members on Monday to gauge their opinions on what qualities they want to see in the new president of Maryland's second-largest university. 

The meeting between the the university's search committee is scheduled to be held in the Minnegan Room in Johnny Unitas Stadium at 6:30 p.m. The meeting follows a similar one with students last week and precedes one scheduled with staff and faculty on Thursday.

The committee is gathering input from all sides to help guide its decision on who will replace Robert Caret, who  at the University of Massachusetts in January.

The search committee includes faculty, staff, students, alumni and two members of the University System of Maryland Board of Regents. Over the next several months, the committee will narrow a field of applicants to three to five finalists. Those names will be forwarded to Chancellor William Kirwan. Kirwan will recommend one and the Board of Regents will vote.

Louise Michaux Gonzales, a regent and the search committee's chair, said the full process should take four to six months. The meetings will help create a "profile of the kind of person we are looking for," she said.

This is the first search committee she has chaired. She said she expects the community session to be a lively discussion.

"I think the community is a very important part of the university and part of the experience," she said.

Community leaders expect to have plenty to say about a job that paid Caret a salary of nearly $370,000.

During Caret's nearly eight-year tenure, the university had a sometimes rocky relationship with the community that only recently smoothed out. Past disputes have mainly centered on construction projects and the behavior of off-campus students. 

County Councilman David Marks said he wants the next president to continue mending fences with the community and to push for more on-campus housing. Marks also wants to see the university do more to expand its presence in Towson's downtown.

"I think there is a role for professional offices in the heart of Towson ... things the university can place in the heart of downtown that will bring more foot traffic into the heart of downtown," Marks said. "Towson University has been bullet-proof during the past recession."

Thomas Hanson, president of the Towson Manor Village Community Association, said he wants the next president to manage growth better and balance enrollment projections with further housing construction, to limit the impact on the community. The university is finishing the second phase of housing in the West Village area of campus, which will add 651 beds this fall.

"They say,  'Yeah, we're building dorms,' but if you look at the numbers, they don't really match," Hanson said. "That's like spitting on a fire; it doesn't really have much of an impact."

Hanson said he wants the next president to be "more approachable" and responsive to community concerns.

Karl Pfrommer, a former Rodgers Forge resident and once an outspoken critic of the university, said the next president needs to tackle housing issues and student alcohol abuse.

"I really think that Towson University has been negligent in taking care of those situations," said Pfrommer, who now lives in Timonium. He praised the university for providing money to the Baltimore County Police Department to boost patrols near campus. But he said more needs to be done.

"That's not taking a proactive stance towards it. That's merely cleaning up the mess after you've made it," Pfrommer said.

At the lightly-attended student town hall on Wednesday, less than two dozen students discussed topics such as diversity, academics, school spirit and community engagement.

Matt Sikorski, a junior from Reisterstown who lives in Cardiff Hall Apartments and serves as the school's community ambassador there, said he wants the next president to help foster more cohesion between the university and the Towson community. He said he often feels "alienated" in the community.

Towson University, he said, needs "a president that can help the community know the worth that Towson is to the community." At the same time, he wants someone who can foster "mutual respect" between students and their neighbors and build upon moves made in recent years.

Killi Macklin March 14, 2011 at 03:11 PM
Bob Caret was the right man at the right time to push Towson forward, and I have to believe he may also be leaving at just the right time. His vision for the athletic department has not led to results. As the writer put it, his "rocky relationship" with the community may be putting it lightly. There was no love lost between Caret and the neighbors. The school has immensely grown on his watch. He proved to the system that Towson is a place that need attention.

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