Trustee Lewis Von Thaer and Professor Susan Olesik, members of the presidential search committee, hosted the final Columbus-campus forum at the Ohio Union U.S. Bank Theater Wednesday. Credit: Max Garrison | Lantern Reporter

More than 60 people gathered for the last Columbus-campus public forum in the presidential search process Wednesday.

In a meeting at the Ohio Union U.S. Bank Conference Theater, university community members said they wanted the next president to put more focus on the Wexner Medical Center at Ohio State and student and community involvement.

Lewis Von Thaer, university trustee and chair of the selection committee, and Susan Olesik, professor of chemistry and biochemistry and co-chair of the advisory subcommittee, hosted the fourth public forum out of seven aimed to solicit feedback on the “qualities, skills, attributes and experiences” the university community desires in Ohio State’s 16th president, according to the university trustees’ website.

“This is really an information session where we’re trying to draw from the community what we feel is our trustees’ most important job, which is selecting our next leader for the university,” Von Thaer said.

University President Michael V. Drake announced his retirement in November 2019, but he will stay in his current position until at least the end of spring semester before assuming a faculty position, according to previous Lantern reporting. 

Patty Hill-Callahan, vice president of medical and health sciences advancement at the medical center, said she hopes the next president will more closely integrate the medical center and university through interdisciplinary research.

“I believe that we’ll know that we’ve done that in five years when we’re receiving big grants or gifts for that type of work,” Hill-Callahan said.

Olivia Hoppe, a fourth-year in history and political science who was the only student to speak at the forum, said she would like to see a more student-focused president through increased funding and resources for Counseling and Consultation Services.

“I haven’t seen as much as I would like to have seen with President Drake as a student-focused president,” Hoppe said. 

Multiple community members raised concerns about a lack of public input on the final candidates for university president.

Von Thaer said the identities of the final candidates will not be revealed during the search process, but the final candidate may be brought on campus to meet with key administrators, deans, faculty and students.

This is done to protect candidates from any consequences from their current employers, Von Thaer said.

“Academic environments are not the best places in the world to keep a secret,” Von Thaer said. 

The advisory subcommittee is working to develop a job description for the position based on the public forums and other listening sessions with the university community, Olesik said.

“We are generating white papers that the entire committee reviews to generate the job description,” Olesik said.

Olesik said after the forum that the description should be released in early March following approval by the Office of Legal Affairs.

Wednesday’s forum was the last scheduled at the Columbus campus.The first forum was canceled due to inclement weather Feb. 12, and the second took place Feb. 14 at Thompson Library.

The search committee is also holding public forums at Ohio State’s regional campuses. The first of four scheduled regional campus forums took place Tuesday at the Marion campus. Additional forums will take place from 2 to 3 p.m. Thursday at the Mansfield campus in Ovalwood Hall, 12:15-1:15 p.m. Tuesday at the Lima campus in the Perry Webb Student Life Building and 8:30-9:30 a.m. Wednesday at the Newark campus in Hopewell Hall.