Building 26 gets life support
By Chloe Wilhelm - Staff Reporter
Highline students called for an open-minded president from a diverse background at yesterday's Presidential Search Student Forum.
Board of Trustees member Fred Mendoza and chair Debrena Jackson Gandy listened to concerned students talk about what they wanted in their new Highline president.
The forum is the most recent in a series tf events following President Dr. Jack Bermingham's retirement last summer.
Dr. Jeff Wagnitz became the interim president shortly afterwards.
With promises from the Board of Trustees to involve students in the search for a new president, Highline is hosting listening sessions for students and staff to share their opinions.
"We volunteer to do this for the success of the college," Mendoza said. "We want to make sure that the next president doesn't just speak for the board, but for all of you."
Mendoza said that it's important to speak up for what you'd like in a president.
"It's been a while since I've been in your shoes," he said. "You have unique dreams and aspirations that we want to hear."
Speaker of the Caucus Astrid Dueñas began by calling for a president with a diverse background.
"I think one thing the future president should have is a history in diversity," she said.
Dueñas said that respecting the Highline's diverse community is very important, and ideas such as more gender inclusivity would be welcome in a president.
Many other students agreed, with some calling directly for a woman of color to be Highline's next president.
Julian Burrington, the leader of Student Veterans at Highline, a group for those that have served in the armed services, wanted more recognition for veterans who are at Highline.
"We have a large veteran population," he said. "When they come home, we should help them."
Burrington said veterans at Highline have a poor support network, with an office so small that they have to sit on the floor to fit just a few people inside.
"Having more resources would be beneficial," he said.
Kendall Evans, another member of Student Veterans at Highline, said that most of the surrounding colleges have veteran support networks. Highline, he said, doesn't.
"My veterans keep asking me, 'when will we have that network?'" Evans said.
Vanessa Primer, president of Student Government, also voiced her concerns.
"I was wondering, if they had worked outside of primary education, would that be taken into account?" she asked.
Primer said that work for a non-profit or charity organization should also be encouraged for a Highline president.
She also said that academic work is important for a president.
"If we have a president with academic credentials, they'll have a greater understanding of what we do here," she said.
Lastly, Primer said that the specific problems with Highline need to be taken into account when the interviewing process begins.
Patrick Fernandez, an academic adviser at Highline, said that interacting with students is the most important thing.
"I would like to see a president that listens to the students," he said. "Someone who knows what's going on, not in some ivory tower. It's very important to be of the people and for the people."
Students were then asked for one trait that they don't want in a president.
Close-mindedness, apathy and carelessness are things the search committee should avoid.
If anyone wants to attend another listening session, the Federal Way Library will be hosting one in Meeting Room 2 on Monday, Dec. 11 at 6:30 p.m. Students can also visit https://www.highline.edu/presidential-search/community-input/ to give opinion on questions the Board of Trustees wants students to answer.