Preferred presidential candidate visits campus

Board of Regents preferred candidate, Dr. Tim Caboni, talks with SGA members on Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017 in the SGA offices in DSU. During the meeting Caboni answered questions and discussed SGA’s expectations of the university’s 10th president in the case that he is elected on Friday.

Jamie Williams

The preferred presidential candidate met with the Student Government Association on Tuesday and President Gary Ransdell on Wednesday to get acquainted with WKU’s campus.

The SGA council was the first group to meet with the preferred candidate Tim Caboni, and it proposed a resolution that discussed its’ recommended qualities for the next WKU president.

This was followed by a campus tour of WKU conducted by Ransdell on Wednesday. Caboni’s wife Kacy Schmidt-Caboni also got a tour of her husbands alma mater.

“My wife has not yet been here, but I am excited to show her where I spent time and where I got my master’s degree,” Caboni said.

Throughout the SGA meeting on Tuesday, Caboni put an emphasis on transparency and building good relationships with all members of the campus community.

“When I say everything I do is about relationships, it’s true,” Caboni said.

Caboni said as president he would expect to have office hours just like faculty where anyone could sign up to have a meeting with him to discuss issues or concerns. He also said he plans to have a meeting with the SGA executive council once per month in order to hear any other student concerns. Caboni hopes  these actions will show WKU he is accessible and available if needed.

The executive council also focused on a clause of the resolution which states, “The 10th president of Western Kentucky University should promote racial, ethnic, sexuality, gender, religious,  and class diversity.”

Caboni agreed with this clause and said  diversity on campus only improves students’ experiences.

“The university and educational experience is going to be stronger if you’re around folks that are not like you,” Caboni said. “When you get out into the ‘real world,’ the world has been and will continue to change.”

However, he said it was important to look past numerical growth of diverse groups and instead ensure those groups are being integrated into the university population. Caboni said “ticking off boxes” for diversity was not as important as making sure marginalized students are included.

“Diversity is important, but I think inclusion is perhaps more important,” Caboni said. “It’s not just getting a bunch of folks together from different places. It’s: how do we create a welcoming culture, an inclusive culture, an accepting culture, where everyone feels part of what we do as a university?”

Similarly, Caboni agreed with the SGA’s requirementfor the new president to have a “global awareness” in order to better serve international students at WKU. Caboni said  seeing the United States through another country’s eyes is an invaluable experience, just as it would be for international students to see their own countries through an American’s eyes.

“My job as a president would be, hopefully, to articulate who we are and who we aspire to be,” Caboni said. “One of the things that we aspire to be as an institution is a remarkably welcoming place for folks who come from wherever they come from, and that we celebrate that.”

The council also discussed putting a priority on academics programs and ensuring athletic funding is distributed appropriately while the programs accumulate revenue for the university. Cabin said  while he wishes “20,000 people would come watch a student theater production, that’s not the world we live in.” He believes revenue sports are a way to maintain other university programs while teaching student athletes important lessons of their own.

“Academics here are what we do,” Caboni said. “The reason people come to a university is not to watch sports. The reason they come to a university is to be educated, to make a good living and to make a good life at some point.”

Richey emphasized the importance of upholding shared governance, meaning  Caboni should take into account the voices of all students, faculty and staff equally. Richey clarified while he didn’t want to impose term limits, he wanted to ensure the president would be mindful of when to step down from the position.

“President Ransdell has done a remarkable job transforming this university for the better,” Richey said. “The latter half of his tenure has been, in my personal opinion, less of a prioritization of shared governance and more focused on his own personal vision.”

Caboni agreed if he became president, his first days would be spent communicating with the campus community so  everyone would be involved in the planning process for the future.

“There are aspirations that I have for the institution and that the folks who work with me on the admin council have for the institution,” Caboni said. “There are also aspirations that students have, that faculty have, and we need to have that conversation as a community.”

Among other requirements in the council’s resolution were maintaining resource centers for marginalized student communities, promoting sustainability, fostering a scholastic political community and allowing student-run publications to operate free of university oversight.

Caboni acknowledged while he and the SGA or campus community as a whole may not always see eye-to-eye, he will always be forward and open in conversation.

“All I can say is: we’re going to be transparent and talk about it,” Caboni said. “We may not agree on every decision, but you’ll know what my position is, and I’ll know what your position is. That’s healthy, to be able to talk through and have difficult conversations in a way that’s not damaging or awful. It’s actually what we do as an institution.”

Reporter Jamie Williams can be reached at 270-745-6011 and [email protected]