After nearly five years as university president, John J. DeGioia has proven himself to be a fairly capable administrator. He is generally well-liked by students and faculty, and he has embraced his role as the school’s fundraiser-in-chief. What he has not done, however, is become a visible and accessible member of the campus community.
Running a university requires a close connection with the beneficiaries of Georgetown’s ultimate product: the students. As someone working hard to improve the University every day, DeGioia could only benefit from a more open relation with campus community. It may allow him to learn things that would otherwise never make it to the president’s office.
So far, DeGioia has done well responding to large problems or crises. When the living wage campaign exploded last year, he met with members of the Georgetown Solidarity Committee to help find a solution. It should not take a hunger strike, though, for DeGioia to open his doors to students.
University presidents at schools such as Rice and George Washington have a greater sense of connection with their students. These presidents have open office hours in which students can voice their opinions and concerns. Being the chief executive and managing a large fundraising effort understandably may not leave much free time. However, DeGioia can surely sacrifice one hour a week to meet with students and talk to student-run organizations.
Obviously, one person alone cannot listen to the concerns of the entire student body, which is why it is of particular concern that DeGioia speak more to the student press, through which he can reach out to a large number of students at once. The president of UPenn speaks at least once a week to student papers. There is no reason why DeGioia should not be able to do the same.
It is important that a leader have some connection with those he leads. As far as most students on campus see, DeGioia remains hidden behind the heavy doors of his office in Healy. A greater presence at campus events, like the one he displayed by stopping by Hoyathon this past weekend, would go far in making the president seem like a more integral part of our campus community. Students should be able to see him at basketball games, theater performances and even the occasional barbeque.
Ultimately, a simple open-door policy and regular office hours would go a long way toward making DeGioia more accessible to the student body.