Not the Chancellor we need

Audrey Larcher

This summer is the beginning of the Class of 2021’s first year on the Forty Acres, but for Chancellor McRaven, it may be the beginning of his last. The retired Navy Admiral faces the threat of termination approaching his three-year contract’s expiration and some bristly clashes with Texas legislatures.

But this situation presents more opportunity for growth than loss. Given the heightened tension on campus, students look to the administration for leadership that listens to and empathizes with our concerns. The Board of Regents should let McRaven go and hire a professional more in touch with marginalized students’ struggles.

McRaven assumed his role as chancellor in 2015 after retiring from the Navy. While his military record brandishes many honors and accomplishments, including his leadership of SEAL Team 6 in its assassination of Osama Bin Laden, McRaven lacks the political connections that success in this position relies on.

In fact, McRaven’s military career appears to be his sole qualification for this position. He offers no previous experience in higher education administration, nor a background in education academia. While these qualifications aren’t necessary to optimal performance, overseeing soldiers is very different from overseeing students, and military experience alone cannot serve as justification for renewal of McRaven’s contract.

McRaven has certainly done well in some areas, including the offense against Campus Carry and his advocacy for affordable education for all students regardless of documentation. But his response to issues of free speech and other student affairs demonstrates how out of touch he is with student issues that are gaining heat on campus, including visibility of minority students’ struggles and the expression of those struggles.

So at this time that an uncharacteristically nervous climate plagues the UT system, the Board of Regents should approach personnel discussion with student voices in mind. To help ease the pain of Harrison Brown’s death and address safety concerns, to help answer questions of sexual assault, to improve diversity and race relations on campus, we need a chancellor who has been on the losing side of similar issues. We need a chancellor who understands the true toll such issues take on the marginalized. And while Chancellor McRaven has faced adversity, his leadership directing Special Forces squadrons does not translate to sympathy for student affairs.

When issues that affect campus climate and student communities arise, we need a face that we can turn to within our system, knowing that they can translate student voices into concrete policy change.  When we look at Chancellor McRaven, there is a track record that suggests most students are in good hands. But for the most marginalized of us, we cannot rely on nothing but McRaven’s military accomplishments.

What we need is a chancellor with a long record of challenging oppression, violence and hatred that the system is owes responsibility. A chancellor who isn’t afraid to investigate the true root of sexual assault, who isn’t afraid to condemn racism on campus and actively work to improve campus for students of color. We need someone within the university system who we can rely on to keep the university in check.

Larcher is a Plan II and economics sophomore from Austin. Follow her on Twitter @AudreyLarcher.