Anika Banerjee ’24 (she/her)
“The president is the person who represents and sets the tone for a college,” said Anthony Foxx ‘93, Chair of the Presidential Search Committee in the process of hiring President Quillen’s replacement.
Davidson is at the dawn of a new era in its storied history. As President Quillen steps down from her position, Davidson is left with the question of ‘who’s next’. This year the Davidson community has been tasked with selecting a candidate to not only serve, but embody the college.
On September 20, 2021, Alison Mauze ‘84 notified the student body that Davidson has composed a group of faculty, alumni, trustees and students to select our next president. Dean McCrae, the Vice President for Student Life and the Dean of Students, worked closely with the Board of Trustees to select which of the self-nominated students will join the committee.
The Board selected three students based on their majors, campus involvements, and years at the college. McCrae said each student “demonstrated a commitment to servant leadership and their collective accomplishments include awards in undergraduate research, the creation of new campus organizations, innovations in creative expression, and athletic competition at the Division 1 level.”
Since nomination of the future president is a complicated and lengthy process, there are still a number of unknowns. Foxx emphasizes how crucial the search committee is to the process. He stated that, “Choosing a president will involve discussion with constituencies across the campus. Every presidential change requires us to take a deep look at where we’ve been, where we are, and [where] we’re going as a campus community.”
As of now, the number of presidential candidates and the criteria they should meet are yet to be determined. On January 28th, 2021, Mauze announced to the Davidson community that only 25 percent of Board members must be Presbyterian, with the remaining members being of any faith, and the President need not identify as Presbyterian. However, along with the numerous moving parts involved, Foxx contends that the changes that were made in the bylaws as to the prerequisites of a presidential candidate will be taken into account for this latest selection.
Allie Hay ‘24, a fourth generation legacy student, stated that, “One of the great things about the Reformed tradition of the PC(USA) is that it is open to all beliefs. I think the bylaw changes will broaden the scope of applicants, allowing for a better fit overall for Davidson.”
The gravity of the process is not lost upon the student body. The president of a college is a crucial factor in defining the campus culture. Quillen herself was a key component of the decision making process for many in the current student body.
“Carol Quillen has been an integral part to our community; she has made herself present in our day-to-day lives and has shown consistent care for our needs. Finding someone to match her standards will be difficult,” said Sean Dick ‘24.
President Quillen stepping down has most certainly had a large impact on the student body, and many students are hoping that her qualities are reflected in her successor. “I’m sad to see President Quillen go!” said Hay. “I hope the search committee finds someone with the same school spirit, energy, and strong will that she possesses.”
Both Hay and Dick hope to see a president who values the opinions of the student body while also implementing change for the betterment of Davidson. Additionally, they believe that the expansion of diversity and inclusion on campus is pertinent to the improvement of Davidson.
Foxx, McCraw, Hay, and Dick believe that the student body will adapt to the new president well. Since everyone on campus shares the same goal—to make Davidson a better and more accepting school—they all believe that change is something that the student body will accept and indeed embrace. Foxx stated, “I believe that the student body will adapt well to this change because we have seen this before and there is no reason to think why this time would be any different.”
Although Hay and Dick are proud to be students at Davidson, they believe that a new president is an opportunity for greater change. Hay commented, “There’s a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes in higher education that students don’t know about. I would love for the next president to be more transparent with students about changes being made and ask for more student feedback.”
As Davidson enters its third century, Dick says that “The opportunities for Davidson are limitless. We are lucky to be involved in a community where everyone is always looking to support each other and improve the school.” Two hundred years of history, countless students and faculty, and eighteen Presidents have helped engender a culture that makes it so.