The Falcon | Volume 83, Issue 52
Published 5/22/13 | Log In
Fundraising a clear focus for committee
By SHANE PECH, Opinions Editor
Published: April 25, 2012
We’re calling the new president D-Money, and that’s that.
While the moniker is hilarious, easy on the ears, and incorporates Dr. Daniel J. Martin’s name, it has the added benefit of relaying to students just what the school finds most important in selecting a new president: money.
I’ve never met Dr. Martin. He seems like a good guy. He has a nice family with young kids, is fresh out of a lifetime of Nazarene education, and has a penchant for dancing in front of chapel services.
All these traits, however, were ultimately secondary to the real reason D-Money was brought in. In the school’s quiet announcement of Dr. Martin’s selection, the first accomplishment listed at his former school is “receipt of a $10 million commitment, the largest single gift in the University’s history.” Under his leadership, Mount Vernon Nazarene built or renovated eight major school buildings, a feat directly linked to an uptick in enrollment during his tenure.
This isn’t the first time SPU has affirmed its commitment to money first and foremost. Many forget that Phil Dawg was plucked not from the world of academia — although he does hold a doctorate in Literature — but from his business as a commercial real estate developer.
It is, then, no accident that, according to SPU’s website, President Dr. Philip Eaton has been the most successful fundraiser in SPU’s long history. With over $100 million spent on campus building initiatives alone, his real estate background was an integral part of his role as president since 1996.
That’s not to say that D-Money and Phil Dawg are unmoved by the university’s education needs. Each has spearheaded significant accreditation achievements for his respective university, something SPU business majors specifically can affirm as a very big deal indeed.
Certainly, Dr. Eaton has done excellent things for the university, as best I can tell. Having only been here four years, it’s hard to know just how formative Phil Dawg’s presidency has been on the university as a whole.
The actual monuments to his tenure, though, are not hard to find. Gwinn Commons, Emerson Hall, the Science Building, Bertona Classrooms, Cremona Apartments, Wesley Apartments and more are tangible testaments to the reason Dr. Eaton was hired: to develop our campus.
We — or at least I — have a lot of rosy ideas about what a president should be at a school like SPU.
Earlier this year, while I was still on Senate, we were asked what qualities we would like to see in a president.
We talked about education, the semester system, crosswalks (yes, crosswalks), how the president should interact with the faculty, culturally diverse and female applicants, and more.
Not once, though, did a student on Senate express a desire for a president who could raise a lot of money.
Now, readers in the upper echelons of the university’s leadership (if they actually read this column) may rightly point this out as the reason we shouldn’t be running the university or choosing its president.
That point is well-taken.
It’s worth noting, though, that students have such different goals for the university than the university itself.
I understand that we need to make money to keep the university afloat. After a 10-year stretch that saw tuition and fees double for students, we need an influx of cash now more than ever.
And yet I can’t shake the feeling that the university is placing fundraising too high on their list of priorities. D-Money may prove to work excellently with faculty and vault SPU past Wheaton as the “Harvard of Christian Universities.” Phil Dawg came from the business world and did excellent things.
But it shouldn’t be forgotten that the students themselves seem to rank comparatively low on the priority list of the selection committee. While the commitment to building and fundraising are lauded, along with accreditation and things of that nature, students end up ranking pretty low on the list of important things to look for and say about a new president.
With prices for attending college skyrocketing, and as students must sacrifice more and more to be here, shouldn’t the president of our institution have something to say to us? Shouldn’t we be told his record for raising or lowering tuition costs? Shouldn’t the school do something more than hold a luncheon for faculty and staff only, excluding students?
Our Associated Students of Seattle Pacific President Josh Norquist was a part of the search committee. I have the utmost confidence in him, and I’m sure he represented us well.
But I can’t escape the fact that in a school where students far outnumber faculty and staff, only one student was allowed to participate in that discussion, and even then, was not allowed to let other students in on almost any details of the process.
I found out about our new president because I happened to be on the SPU website at the time. If I hadn’t, I would probably have had to wait quite some time for the information to trickle down to me. I don’t think that’s OK.
Because, while building, fundraising, and accreditation are indeed important parts of making a university work, there is not a more crucial part of making SPU work than the students who attend it.
I’m not asking the school to pick a president who will be best buds with students or give us free tuition. I’m not that naďve.
What I am asking for, though, is the acknowledgement that we are here at all. In choosing to celebrate the qualifications that the new president has, and by closing almost every student out from the decision-making process and the decision itself, the school demonstrated that students — and what they think — are far down the list of their priorities.
That said, I’m sure D-Money will be great, and we’ll develop an affection for him just as we did for Phil Dawg. I’m not mad that the school chose him in particular, just at the details they thought were important to say about him.
I love SPU, but between this and the ever-rising cost of attendance, I wonder how much SPU cares that I or any of us are here at all.
Here’s to hoping that, in the future, the school would at least do us the common courtesy of making us feel important and included in a decision that will greatly affect the $100,000-plus investment we make here.
Staff reporter Shane Pech is a senior creative writing major at Seattle Pacific.