The recent articles surrounding the appointment of Dr. Steven Leath as Auburn’s next president are both disappointing and frustrating to read as an Auburn student, as well as the former representative of the student body. While it is valuable for students to be informed on the background of their future University president, it is not valuable for the future president to be drug through the mud for the sake of gaining readership.
While serving on the presidential search committee, I was able to interact with and interview the top university leaders across the country. We asked these candidates questions across the board, but most importantly, we wanted to find out how they would serve Auburn students on a daily basis.
Dr. Leath is far and away the best president for the future of Auburn and the student body. Dr. Leath has an impressive background when it comes to students. From his and his wife’s dedication to engaging with students on a weekly basis to sacrificing late hours of the night to encourage student safety, Dr. Leath has proven himself as a president who is in it for the students.
Beyond student interaction, Dr. Leath has quite the track record of leading a complex organization at Iowa State University. He greatly increased the research dollars at Iowa State, brought in record-breaking gifts for a $1.1 billion campaign and implemented programs that positively impacted the state - like the one that guarantees a quality education at Iowa State for local elementary school students.
This process was conducted so that Auburn could attract and ultimately hire the most qualified president in the nation. Forums were held on campus to gather feedback in September - including a forum where roughly 40 students from all backgrounds were asked about qualities they wished to see in their next president. This was a valuable time for students to voice their wants, needs and concerns, and what was said in that room was taken to heart by Mr. Raymond Harbert, Auburn University trustee and chair of the search committee, and the entire search committee – even to the point of being included in the public announcement of the position and the packet that described Auburn to potential candidates.
Because of these things, I know that Dr. Leath is right for Auburn. I voice my full support and confidence in Dr. Leath as the next president of Auburn University. He will tirelessly work for the betterment of Auburn in all that he does.
To the student body – I encourage you to welcome Dr. Leath with an open mind and make your own judgments about him when he gets to campus. I know you will not be disappointed in what you find in our next leader.
Jesse Westerhouse is a former SGA President and was a member of the Auburn University presidential search committee.