By Rebekah Devorak | Opinions Editor
The 2016 Presidential election continues to look grimmer each day, no matter which candidate you are voting for. But if you’ve noticed the 1,000 red and blue “Gormley 2016” t-shirts floating around campus, then you’ll know that things are feeling steadier here at Duquesne.
For Ken Gormley, former dean of the law school who was inaugurated as Duquesne’s 13th president on Sept. 22, this is only the beginning. Surviving the inauguration ceremony was the easy part. Now he must make good on the promises he delivered in front of students, faculty, staff and alumni. He has a responsibility now to represent each person affiliated with this university with the utmost thought, care and respect. That is not a duty to be taken lightly or halfheartedly.
One statement that President Gormley made during his inauguration speech is that he wishes to see Duquesne as the “dominant university in community engagement in Western Pennsylvania.”
Considering that Duquesne has a strong history of establishing service groups and pursuing service projects, this is an ideal goal worth pursuing. The university has over 30 different service and advocacy student groups listed on its website.
However, only a few of these groups, such as St. Vincent de Paul Society and Gamma Sigma Sigma, regularly go off campus to volunteer in local impoverished Pittsburgh communities in need of help. According to an article by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 27.9 percent of families residing in the city lived below the poverty line in 2015.
Duquesne is perched in the middle of Pittsburgh; its location cannot be untied from the influence it has in shaping this city. The university’s impact on the surrounding towns can be profound if Gormley’s administration increases the number of groups dedicated to serving people beyond Duquesne who require assistance.
In the decade during which President Gormley hopes to achieve this goal of community engagement, the university should also consider supporting more open-minded organizations in need of help, such as those within the LGBT community.
The world is changing. Duquesne should make an effort to change positively with it, while still maintaining its mission. While Pittsburgh has a low rate of LGBT community members compared to other cities in the United States, according to a 2015 article by the New York Times, it is still a group that the university has yet to substantially reach out to. Partnering with Lambda, Duquesne’s gay-straight alliance, and other student groups already established is another area where Gormley’s administration could have a significant impact.
Something that Gormley is already making a serious effort on is physically getting out of the Old Main offices and onto the lively parts of campus, where he is often seen interacting with students. What I am sure are simple “hello’s” and “how are you’s” to him in reality make all of the difference in the world. This is important because a president who takes the time to converse with students is one who actually cares about their lives and well-being.
This is a wonderful change of pace from other university presidents who have been unable, for whatever reason, to do the same on a regular basis. The fact that Gormley makes himself available, even if just for short chats in passing, will lead to a more open relationship between students and the administration. Considering that Old Main is tucked away in a corner of campus, this is something the university desperately needs.
That being said, Gormley must remember that with every decision he makes, there are students who will be affected by those choices. This goes for whether it’s something as powerful as cutting budgets to something simpler such as the right campus leaders. Even if it seems like students, who pay thousands of dollars to attend school here, will not be directly impacted, they will. And they will care about the outcomes.
So congratulations, President Gormley. We look forward to your journey and wish you luck in serving this university.