OUR VIEW: Despite concerns, Guy Bailey could serve UA well

Our View

 

The search for a new University of Alabama president created an opportunity for change that eluded the University under the leadership of Robert Witt.

Even as the University grew and prospered in terms of enrollment and facilities during Witt’s eight-year tenure, issues like greek segregation were left untouched and racial incidents still headlined campus news. Scholarship and financial opportunities, not to mention leadership and involvement opportunities, seemed to accumulate with a small and homogenous group of select students. Many students “felt like a number,” and even some of those most heavily recruited wished the University would work as hard to keep them here as it did to get them here in the first place.

Last week, the presidential selection committee unveiled Guy Bailey, who is widely speculated to serve as UA’s next president, as the sole finalist in the process. Bailey most recently served as Texas Tech University’s president, a school similar to UA in size, athletics and demographics. Bailey is also a native Alabamian and a UA alumnus, receiving both his bachelor and master’s degrees in English.

The UA Board of Trustees has made a comfortable choice in selecting Bailey. His presidential role at a school comparable to Alabama makes comparing Bailey and our former president fairly easy. And while Judy Bonner’s status as interim president tempted us with the possibility of a first female president, the board seems to have decided against making the historic step of hiring a woman or minority.

It would be exceedingly easy for Bailey to make comfortable choices himself, closely following Witt and forging ahead with the status quo of growth beyond our means. He could continue to forsake real progress and leave us dealing with issues most universities resolved by the end of the 20th century.

Both diversity and academic standards were areas of improvement under Bailey, yet the Texas Tech greek system remains segregated, and academically, Tech is ranked 160 in the 2012 U.S. News rankings (compared to UA’s 75 slot). His attention to these issues shows he will not shy away from topics deemed taboo by trustees, but despite conversation, Tech students saw little improvement.

Perhaps part of Bailey’s lack of substantial success is due to the amount of time spent at Tech. He served as president for less than four years, and before serving at Texas Tech, he worked at eight different schools. Our hope is that our next president will be committed to the University of Alabama, because the change we need will only be lasting with consistent leadership.

But if Bailey is indeed committed to his alma mater, we do have real reason to be optimistic about his selection.

Bailey seems genuinely committed to students. Nearly everyone available for an interview about him from Texas Tech praised him highly. By making those students feel like they belong at Tech, Guy Bailey has proven he is exactly what we need — a “student-centered” president.

Guy Bailey is a teacher and has been since the start. He even still writes books on his favorite topic, linguistics. The businessman Robert Witt served the University when we needed him, and we’re thankful for it. Now, though, we as students need a teacher like Bailey – someone who can show us, by example, how to bring about the progress we hold in such high regard.

If Bailey will commit to teaching us, we have to commit to be good students. We have to ask questions, take advantage of his open-door policy and be active. At Texas Tech, Bailey had a habit of appearing at campus events and student organization meetings, even serving hot dogs on the first day of school. He consistently eats lunch at the Texas Tech student center, marking his availability and dedication to the average student. We have to speak up about our concerns and take advantage of this accessibility, and if we do, Bailey could very well be the leader we need.

Therefore, we have to reason to be optimistic as we stand at the possible beginning of the Guy Bailey era. Dr. Bailey, if the Board selects you, welcome to the University of Alabama.

Our View is the consensus of The Crimson White Editorial Board.