In the new school year, all eyes are on Fitts

Kathryne LeBell, Views Editor

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The following is an opinion article and opinion articles do not reflect the views of The Tulane Hullabaloo.

The end of August brings in a sudden flood of new and returning students, fresh-faced from a summer away from classes. Returners will notice a number of new features on campus, including an art museum instead of a gallery, a new floor in Howard-Tilton Memorial Library and an empty place where the Newcomb College Institute used to be.

It is unsurprising that a university campus is constantly evolving. With New Orleans and Tulane approaching the 10-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, all eyes will be on President Michael Fitts.

As the first new president since before Hurricane Katrina, President Fitts occupies a particularly unique role. Relatively new to the city and with no prior connections to Tulane, he is still expected to lift the university up to a higher level. This is reflected in the active renovations taking place on campus, as well as his commitment to a $1 billion fundraising campaign.

Taking Tulane to the next level is not an easy step. The university is not without its challenges. Last year exposed a weakness in the mental health services provided to students. There has also been a history of poor administrative response to claims of sexual assault and related incidents.

With his friendly face and approachable demeanor, however, Fitts has the potential to become a respected and admired figure in the community. He has taken multiple opportunities to reach out. He eats with students at Bruff Commons, greets students on McAlister Drive and has a kind word for anyone who approaches him.

It is fair to say, however, that friendliness does not equal strong leadership. One year into his presidency, we do not fully know the direction in which he will be taking Tulane.

Clearly, there are still a number of changes that need to occur. University policies, including ones that affect admissions, must become more transparent. A non-white student population of 26.3 percent in a predominately black city poses some questions. The implementation of the new alcohol policy, updated after the last was found to violate federal regulations, hints at other policies that may need revision. Transgender students continue to face various levels of discrimination, within administrative processes and in the classroom.

President Fitts has the opportunity to bring Tulane University to the forefront of American higher education. Already, Tulane has a reputation of an open-minded and well-respected research institution.

By aiming high and acting quicker than peer institutions, Tulane can set the precedent for inclusion and diversity, and not just the geographic kind. This requires strong leadership above all else. I hope to see this kind of active leadership from President Fitts in the upcoming year.