the Beacon Journal editorial board


The immediate departure of Scott Scarborough as president of the University of Akron has been overdue. Scarborough took the position with two primary goals, increase enrollment and repair the finances. He sees the big picture for higher education, especially the challenges facing middle-sized universities. He made tough choices. What he has lacked are the leadership skills necessary to execute and communicate, or to build and sustain the necessary following.



After the budget debacle of a year ago, slashing and restructuring without answers to obvious concerns about “what now,” he had an opportunity to adapt, engage and lead. He proved unable to meet the occasion, no matter some promising ideas and initiatives. Opposition mounted. His isolation grew. He had to go.



So, there was no small relief on Tuesday, across campus and in the larger Akron community, at the announcement of his exit.



What remains are the challenges, many of which have deepened the past year, the budget under further strain because of enrollment problems, talent leaving or looking to do so. Scarborough is right about UA needing a greater element of distinctiveness to draw from a wider pool of applicants. Essential to getting there is building on strengths and committing to real and higher quality.



That starts with repairing the most important relationship on the campus — between the administration and the faculty. The work cannot wait for the next president to arrive. Which explains why the choice of an interim president is so crucial. That person must be prepared to win the confidence and support of the faculty.



Trustees and others shouldn’t see the trouble encountered by Scarborough as somehow the fault of faculty members. If presidents and faculty often clash, Scarborough created his own problems of a much greater magnitude. Now there is an opening to say: Let’s do this together. Thus, the moment requires an interim president with local knowledge and awareness, skill and credibility.



If that relationship improves, then feelings in the community also will advance. An interim period, perhaps a year, must be put to good use as a coming together through shared governance.



It isn’t just local cheerleading to suggest that the university, even with the recent rockiness, has much upon which to build. It goes to the prospects for a new president. The situation might be described as “well, the only direction is up.” That is too flip. There is a true chance to seize the advantage of a campus and community eager to see the university succeed in its role as educator and as an asset to the city and the region.



In that way, the search for a new president should be shared, the process open and inclusive. On Tuesday, Mayor Dan Horrigan urged the UA trustees “to fully engage faculty, students, alumni and community stakeholders” in discussing “the type of leader our university needs.” He is right. Let’s make a better choice this time.