At its meeting last week, the University of Akron board of trustees adopted a “Goal Statement.” Joe Gingo, the board president, explained that he and his colleagues see the “critical need for the university to achieve financial stability within the next three to five years.” That imperative was plain in the budget plan approved for this coming fiscal year, reflecting a 4 percent decline in enrollment and a 6 percent drop in revenue. The plan calls for withdrawing an estimated $11.6 million in reserves to make ends meet.

That is how it has been, more or less, the past four years, or since the turmoil of the Scott Scarborough presidency grabbed hold and he then stepped down, the university with interim leadership, and not just at the top. The consecutive years of declining enrollment have hurt the bottom line, along with the state continuing to disinvest from higher education.

This turn of events has merited the concern of the Akron community as a whole. The university is essential to our collective success, for starters, as a source of talent and a driver of the regional economy. So it has been dismaying to watch the trustees and school officials struggle to provide the necessary leadership.

John Green, a highly respected political scientist, has done his best the past year as the interim president. He has made tough choices. Yet this isn’t a job he sought or prepared to take up. Others in high positions are not there as a result of a formal search. They were available, more than anything else. That isn’t a sound formula for landing outstanding candidates.

The hope is that will change with the current search for a permanent president, someone arriving who is ready for the challenge. In that way, there was something else hopeful in the Goal Statement of the trustees, a request for the administration to develop a strategic plan, one that would point the way to sustained financial stability through such things as “increasing the perception of UA as a university of distinction and choice; focusing research on areas of strength and opportunity;” and “working closely with regional business, community and political leaders to strengthen our local economy.”

If, of late, UA has conducted a comprehensive academic program review and identified areas of “strategic investment,” it has yet to answer with precision what the university aims to be in five years or a decade, let alone how it will get there. Joe Gingo, in talking about the strategic plan, noted that the administration would act “in conjunction with the entire university community.” That sentiment must prove true if the planning process and its result are going to be successful.

This is an old saw from this editorial page: The trustees have missed many opportunities to engage “the entire university community.” If, at times, they have moved in the right direction, they haven’t tapped the full knowledge and experience, something particularly needed in the wake of the division and mistrust of the Scarborough tenure, in part, trustees acknowledging their own shortcomings.

The board should know that morale is low for many on campus. The concern isn’t just the buyout packages and voluntary early retirements, or the departure of key researchers, or the money athletics drains from the general fund. It goes to many failing to see an approach or plan to rally behind. They want to be part of moving forward, knowing that UA has many assets and much to offer its students and others. Come to think of it, that is the kind of leadership worth seeking in a new president, someone eager to reach out and deploy all the strengths available.