Student Express Little Interest in Search for McShane’s Replacement

The first formal presidential search listening session turnout was 95% less than expected

spellman+hall%2C+the+residence+of+president+mcshane+and+other+jesuits

JILL RICE

Spellman Hall, the current residence of McShane, will have a large change when the president leaves his position. Fordham students have not shown much interest in the search for a new university president.

By GABE SAMANDI

In an email sent to the Fordham community on Sept. 3, 2021, the Office of the President announced Rev. Joseph M. McShane, S.J., will retire in June 2022.

It’s time to step aside and allow someone else to have the great joy of leading Fordham into the future,” McShane said in his announcement email. 

Ten days later, the search agency Fordham contracted to assist the university through its presidential transition, WittKieffer, held a student listening session. The listening session was expected to accommodate as many as 500 students with follow-up meetings available for any additional attendees. 

The meeting took place on Zoom on Sept. 13. There were only 15 attendees. The audience mainly consisted of graduate students, with some undergraduate students in attendance. 

“I was just surprised that a huge figurehead was just leaving the university like that, with such short notice. I thought they would’ve waited until the end of the school year to make the announcement.” Will Chao, FCLC ’22

“I remember — back when I was selecting colleges — that McShane gave a whole big speech and was funny and very charismatic,” Hudson Flynn, Fordham College at Rose Hill ’23, said. “My parents liked that he was a funny guy; they went to much bigger schools and didn’t expect a president to be so engaged with the campus community.”

Both Flynn and Will Chao, Fordham College at Lincoln Center ’22, noted the apparent lack of symbolic or sentimental gestures in the way McShane’s departure was announced.

“I was just surprised that a huge figurehead was just leaving the university like that, with such short notice. I thought they would’ve waited until the end of the school year to make the announcement,” Chao said.

Both Chao and Flynn noted that McShane’s background as an ordained priest wasn’t necessarily an attractive quality, and that they were unenthused by the announcement of a presidential search because they felt Fordham’s future will closely resemble its past.

Flynn and Chao both said across campuses, McShane had a notable personality but was rarely available for students’ academic or personal concerns.

“He had a big personality and a presence on campus,” Chao said. “But I don’t remember seeing him around. I think I’m just generally indifferent towards him.” 

Flynn added that McShane was “hard to access” as an undergraduate student.

“At this point it is just as likely to be a Jesuit as not.” Rev. Joseph M. McShane, S.J., university president

In an interview with The Observer regarding his retirement, McShane said there is a chance the university will select someone from outside the Jesuit clergy moving forward. 

“I trust that the Board of Trustees and the search committee will assemble an excellent pool of candidates and pick the most suitable candidate,” McShane said. “At this point it is just as likely to be a Jesuit as not.”

Robert Daleo, chair of the presidential search committee, announced the 19 Fordham committee members in an email on Sept. 30. He also said the leading candidates will be decided in early 2022, and the new president will be announced in the spring.

Students are encouraged to reach out to WittKieffer at [email protected], where Robin Mamlet, a senior partner at WittKieffer, said the agency “follows every lead.”

Michael Leifer contributed reporting to this article.