As the search committee begins the process to find Wake Forest’s 14th president, the Editorial Board, and ultimately the entire university community, would be remiss to ignore the gravity of the choice. President Nathan Hatch’s successor will be forced to address the pandemic, the largest challenge facing higher education since the Civil War, before he or she can address any other issue. The president will grapple with the growing mediatization of our society, the mis/disinformation that comes with it, and will be tasked with realizing necessary diversity and inclusion goals (some that have been outlined by Hatch, and some that have yet to be addressed entirely).
In acknowledging the monumental dedication of the search committee to locate and hire a president who values Pro Humanitate, the Editorial Board has multiple recommendations for candidate qualities.
First, as referenced above, the Editorial Board believes that the largest and most comprehensive challenge to the university, aside from the pandemic, is addressing both its history with racial injustice and the current experience of Black students at Wake Forest. As a liberal arts school in the South, the university has a distinct opportunity to break barriers and hire a Black educator as our next president. While a Black president would be in a unique position to understand the everyday experiences of BlPOC students — from outright racism to microaggressions — they would also bring a completely new perspective to Wake Forest via their lived experience.
…the university is in a unique position to break barriers and hire a Black educator as our next president.”
On a similar note, the Editorial Board also recommends that the candidate chosen be able to connect with Generation Z on a deep level. In no way does this mean a president should be chosen on the basis of age, but rather that they actively try to understand the experience of being young: our existential thoughts about the threat of climate change, our relationships to social media and self perception and our experience growing up during a period of extreme political polarization.
Lastly, the Editorial Board hopes to see the next president of Wake Forest accept a smaller salary than that of Hatch’s. In 2015, Hatch earned the most of any university president due to additional compensation and benefits totaling close to $4 million. His base salary that year was approximately $900,000, which is comparable to other highly paid university president. The next president should be willing to receive average private university compensation at $600,000, given that other university employees have lost hours and are not receiving hazard pay during a pandemic that will continue into the foreseeable future.
The university is in a unique position to meet the moment and choose a president with these qualities. The Editorial Board implores the search committee to take these suggestions into consideration when they make this historic decision that will greatly impact the future of Wake Forest.