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ISSUE 119 VOL 15 PUBLISHED 3/24/2006

Anderson shows promise, humor

By Andrea Horbinski
Opinion Editor

Friday, March 24, 2006

I've claimed in these pages that only after the Board of Regents informed the St. Olaf community as to the reason it canned President Christopher Thomforde can we move on to welcoming our new president. This is another occasion on which I must eat my words. Since the Board continues to be about as forthcoming on that topic as an introverted clam (although it did deign to inform us last week that we had a new president), it's time to move on despite them.

The Executive Editors have already pointed out the myriad concerns the community should have with the mode in which we were informed of President-Elect David R. Anderson's selection for the post. But if there's one thing that should be clear to everyone by now, it's that the Board and the President aren't always on the same page, and we should by no means extend our concerns with the Board to its choice to lead us in the future.

Nor should we allow our disappointment with the Board's undignified treatment of President Thomforde to impinge on our treatment of President-Elect Anderson. No one deserves helpings of leftover resentments, and President Anderson especially deserves a fair chance.

A friend of mine was fond of relating, while the presidential search was ongoing, a story about some honor house residents who one night decided to bake President Thomforde some muffins. After they took the muffins over to his house, Thomforde invited them in and talked with them for several hours.

"No one else is going to be like that," my friend would always conclude. But in his inaugural Chapel talk, President Anderson expressed his desire to be actively involved not only in the college community, but in the life of the student body as well.

Personally, I would have liked it had President Anderson been a woman and not a man – having a woman president would be an important step forward for the College – but maybe we can have a woman next time around, once the Board decides that President Anderson has outlived his shelf date. In the meantime, President Anderson hit all the right notes during his campus debut last Tuesday.

"'I'm acutely aware that I haven't done anything yet to deserve this welcome," he said. "I have never been a college president. I will undoubtedly make mistakes."

To hear an incoming official admit that he doesn't know everything right off the bat shouldn't be as rare as it actually was, but nonetheless Anderson's candor throughout his talk was refreshing. He reminded his listeners, "to save you the math," that it's been 32 years since he was last on the St. Olaf campus, and that a lot has changed in the community.

But he also said he would also do his best to find his place in it. And he rattled a gratifying laundry list of issues with which he would like to wrestle as president. Among those he mentioned was the need to keep a St. Olaf education affordable.

If tuition keeps increasing at its current rate, our school will soon be unaffordable to all but the richest scions of (overwhelmingly white) upper-middle-class families, and the diversity Anderson said he wishes to continue to foster will become a figment of our imagination.

President Anderson also expressed his hopes for increased transparency in the college administration. While I have to wonder just how much one new president can change an entrenched bureaucratic culture, I found his espousal of this concern particularly gratifying. If there's one thing that's been near and dear to my own heart this year, it's the need for more communication between the adminstration and students. One would almost think that President Anderson had been reading the Messenger.

Of course, all those who heard his Chapel talk will be able to affirm that he does. I was privileged (if that's the word) to have my latest article mentioned by President Anderson in his Chapel talk. I had concluded with the sarcastic hope that our new president would not be a leader in the style of the “pointy-haired boss” in the comic strip "Dilbert." As it turns out, President Anderson already has a Dilbert bobblehead on his desk to "remind [him] what not to be."

In his introduction of President Anderson, Regent Tad Piper mentioned that Anderson has a great sense of humor – luckily enough for me. At the reception afterward I found him to be funny, a truly nice guy and someone who seems intelligent and very "with it." He seems to be an excellent choice, and I have high hopes for his tenure as our president. It's time to look to our future – and time to join the Facebook group "I'm about the same height as President Anderson."

Opinions Editor Andrea Horbinski is a junior from Marlton, N.J. She majors in classics with concentrations in linguistics and in Japan studies.

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