Synthesis – A requiem for Ransdell

John Winstead mug

John Winstead

News of President Gary Ransdell’s retirement is bittersweet. It should come as no shock that I am a harsh critic of Ransdell. In recent years, most of my attention has been directed towards encouraging him to confront the implicit or explicit racism WKU perpetuates through its lack of resources for students of color and its failure to apologize for racist building constructions.

But before Ransdell’s tenure ends, I’ll try to explain the cult of personality he represents. I firmly believe the reason people love and respect Ransdell has less to do with his policies than with his image.

The president has been more politician than leader. He has shown that he knows the right time to call in favors and the right way to market himself. He has also brought funding to WKU — though not enough to offset his spending policies.

However, most of my criticisms stem from issues that rarely receive attention from the general student body. These include concerns about faculty pay and working rights, concerns about the history of this school, and concerns that inclusion programs are more spectacle than substance.

Faculty rights and salaries matter. Hiring policies should be more inclusive. Staffed women’s resources centers and LGBT resource centers should be established. Racism on WKU’s campus needs to be addressed.

I’m willing to retire personal bitternesses about Ransdell’s actions as president along with his retirement, but I want to see more than polished charisma from our next president. I want to see substantial social changes and a willingness to tackle concerns on campus head-on.