Hirshman chosen as new president of SDSU

by Bill Crotty

Yesterday morning, the California State University Board of Trustees named Dr. Elliot Hirshman as the new president of San Diego State. Hirshman, the current provost and senior vice president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, was one of three final candidates who all visited campus last week.

Hirshman will become the eighth president of SDSU after current president Stephen L. Weber retires on July 5 — 15 years from the day he became a part of SDSU’s now 114-year history.

When first given the decision, Hirshman said “I was honored, and excited, it’s a wonderful position. President Weber and the entire campus have made tremendous progress in creating a great campus.”

The decision came after a thorough selection process, and according to SDSU Senate Executive Committee Chair Bill Snavely, who was among those selecting the new president, Hirshman was strong in every area of the interview process.

“I thought he was articulate and interested in what other people are doing,” Snavely said. “I think he will do well with the external community.

“I think he’s the total package and will make a great president.”

Snavely also said he had the strongest preparation because he comes from a large research university as a provost.

Among his initial goals as SDSU’s new president, Hirshman said his top priority is to learn as much about the campus as possible, meet as many people as he can and understand the issues that are important to the campus. This is just one example of his commitment to shared governance, a skill he said Weber has already laid the groundwork for. Snavely also commented on Hirshman’s objectives, saying that he “has a really clear perspective on what he’s facing.”

“My understanding is that (Weber) made shared governance a priority and I think that will continue with me,” Hirshman said. “Sharing perspectives with people and getting feedback — I have heard Weber has done an excellent job in that and I plan to build on it.”

California’s financial crisis and its effects on funding for public institutions have caused many schools, including SDSU, to make cuts in the humanities. According to speech, language and hearing sciences graduate Stacey Bradford, cuts to the SLHS program in the last few years has caused a number of students to suddenly change their major and take additional classes.

“It’s really awful that the program was reduced so much because it hinders the development of the deaf education major,” Bradford said. “If the new president were to put money back into the program, it would be a huge benefit to SDSU.”

During his visit to campus, Hirshman has indicated a growth of the humanities, rather than a cut, is something he hopes to accomplish at this university.

“The word university actually stems from universal, and I think we need to be mindful that even though we are facing budget challenges, we need to be supportive of all academic areas,” Hirshman said.

Snavely said that the biggest challenge Hirshman will have to overcome, because of size of the issue, is the budget. The budget has been consistently addressed throughout this semester, especially during the Associated Students election that took place in March, and is an issue many believe will be a high priority for Hirshman.

“The magnitude of the potential budget cuts may be more than we know,” Snavely said. “The president is going to need a lot of creativity and strong leadership to get us through the crisis.”

To assist him during the budget troubles, Snavely advised that Hirshman continue to interact with the many voices on campus as possible.

“There’s a real passion and pride people had when talking about (SDSU),” Hirshman said. “I will listen very closely, and carefully, to students and faculty. My focus will stay on fundraising and the mission – the mission to educate, research and serve.”