Pukanecz: A more personable president

Neil Theobald should make a bigger effort to connect with students.

Savannah Pukanecz

Savannah Pukaneczfew weeks ago in my Journalism and Society class, my professor displayed a picture of Kanye West and Kim Kardashian.

“Does anyone know who this is?” he asked. An abundance of hands shot up. Everyone started chatting excitedly about the upcoming Made in America concert.

“OK, OK,” he continued, pulling up a picture of a gray-haired man in a suit.  “Now, can anyone tell me who this is?” Only one or two people raised their hands, and the loud chatter became nervous whispering.

“It’s Neil Theobald,” a girl finally said. More confused murmuring. “The president of our school,” she continued, clearly perturbed.

As a freshman who has only been on campus a few weeks, I had no idea that we even had a president – so the ability to recognize him on sight was completely lost on me.

I thought I had been doing a pretty good job of keeping up with the plethora of information shoved down my freshman throat. But that got me thinking – is it actually my fault that I couldn’t put a name to the man who is supposed to be the face of Temple?

To his credit, President Theobald certainly does make an effort to make his presence known amongst the students and professors he presides. Compared to Temple’s previous president, a woman named Ann Weaver Hart, he makes an  effort to appear at a good deal of Temple sports games.

In addition, freshman anthropology major Nancy Dordal said Theobald will sometimes come through student dining areas and randomly introduce himself – although I personally have yet to experience one of these encounters.

Dordal is also a member of Theobald’s freshman seminar class, where he meets with President’s Scholars – who receive full rides to the university – once a week to give them advice on classes, business management and more.

But what about those of us whose tuition isn’t enitrely paid for by the school? We also have questions – but many of us can’t even recognize the man we’re supposed to be asking them to.

President Theobald should spend more time with the student body. A seminar with a few students once a week isn’t enough for the student body to familiarize itself with his face and feel comfortable with the fact that he’s supposed to be the image of our university.

By contrast, Jack Melnick, a freshman at Villanova University, said his school’s president makes a noticeable effort to connect with students.

“He holds office hours like a professor and anyone can go and talk to him,” the ROTC student said.

Although I’m sure Theobald is an extremely busy man, it strikes me as odd that a freshman at a nearby school already knows who his president is, while my class was left in the dark.

Temple’s website has six inspiring commitments that Theobald made in his inauguration speech in October 2013. While ideals are important, so are individual students – we’re the reason his position exists to begin with.

Theobald does speak at the annual New Student Convocation, which all freshmen are invited to at the beginning of the year – but having a more personal option to meet our president, even something as simple as one or two office hours open to all students would be sufficient in broadening his image.

I, for one, think Neil Theobald is more important and relevant to my life than Kimye. And I’d happily receive any efforts from him to prove me of that.

Savannah Pukanecz can be reached at savannah.lee.pukanecz@temple.edu and on twitter @SavannahPukes

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