The earlier than expected departure of Gail Dinter-Gottlieb, president of Acadia University, was met with a variety of different reactions. Many of these, expectedly, reflect back on her tenure of president with a certain skepticism, and view her removal as vindication for their past criticism of her efforts. Others, meanwhile, view this as yet another sign that Acadia is “falling apart” and that the downward spiral continues to destroy the university at the administrative level. While I perhaps have more sympathy to the former rather than the latter, which I think is sensationalist and frustrating, I would contend that the real reaction here is one which is forward-looking – Gail’s departure allows Acadia to define a new path sooner, rather than later.
By the time September rolls around, Acadia should have a new President in place. The final two projects of Dr. Gottlieb’s time at Acadia, the Biology Building originally scheduled to open this month but now delayed (again) and the revamped Acadia Advantage, will have been completed and launched respectively. The result will be an opportunity for Acadia to stop worrying about internal struggles and faculty strikes and focus on the future. We all knew that Gail wasn’t returning, so now we can move on faster and while some of the university’s problems are still fresh in our memories.
While returning from the holidays is always somewhat bittersweet, this year is particularly interesting. For me, it’s (potentially) my last semester at Acadia, and at least the conclusion of my undergraduate degree. For first year students, however, this will be their first full semester – their first time writing two sets of midterms, or their first time watching as four months goes by in the blink of an eye even without a four-week break. It makes for a unique environment, and one where we’re all trying to stop thinking about the past and move forward.
And while I won’t attempt to speculate regarding Gail’s departure, and the ever vague “personal and family reasons” description, I have to commend this decision because it helps all of us push forward. The strike did not exist as something which will define our university careers, but as an intriguing test of the student body’s ability to adapt and react to such scenarios. I think that a lot of people became engaged with university issues for the first time, whether in regards to academic concerns or student politics. This residual benefit from the strike has yet to be realized, but it now has the potential to show itself.
Over the next few months, next year’s ASU Executive will be elected and appointed, and it will be an incredibly important time. I am hoping that the election does not become about the strike, but rather becomes a contest about a new Acadia that maintains those values important to students. I am personally considering applying for a position on this executive due to my own desire to be a part of creating this new Acadia, but more importantly I want everyone else to want to do the same. So often student elections are ignored, but now is a time for change.
And there can’t be any change if people aren’t willing to step up and make it happen. It doesn’t need to be part of the ASU elections – applying to become an RA is another option that can certainly play an important role in the development of this university and its students in the years ahead. I know that I wish now that I had done more in my first year, and now I feel like I’m playing catchup – if you don’t want to be in the same position, get out there now before it’s too late.
But it’s not yet too late – it’s only the first day of classes, which means that there’s plenty of time to make a difference. Gail leaving may have been met with cheers initially, as is the departure of most authority figures, lets focus on what stands in front of us. I’m tired of hearing about decreased enrollment and administrative deconstruction – we can ultimately create and define our own Acadia, and that is the power we hold in our hands in the new year. While my workload is mildly ridiculous this month, and next month, and pretty much all term, I’ll be working on providing at least some analysis of the ASU Elections to attempt to increase engagement.
Happy New Year, everyone!