President Fitts Deserves More Credit For First Year

Rachel Schor, Views Editor

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

 

Before I interviewed President Michael Fitts, I did not have a definite opinion about him, though many students vocalized their strong impressions of the new president. After interviewing him, I realized that the Tulane community is blessed with a dedicated and motivated president who wants nothing more than to assist students and faculty in producing their best work.

This past year was challenging for the Tulane community, and many students have criticized Fitts for not being involved enough. I do believe that Fitts communicated poorly with the students. Much of what he did to help the community went unnoticed because his efforts did not result in change, in a “no news is good news” type of way. It is easy to assume that no change means that nothing was done, but on the contrary, Fitts worked hard behind the scenes.

The biggest criticism that students seem to have of Fitts from this year is the way that he handled the urgent suicide and mental health discussion that occurred on campus. Tulane lost members of its community and this has not escaped him.

“That was very upsetting, obviously, to me and to other members of the community,” Fitts said. “These were very difficult situations. They have gotten us to think very hard about both our immediate support for students, but also more generally about the wellness of the community.”

Believing his biggest flaw was communication, I gave him an opportunity to respond to those who denounced him and his efforts.

“I have been deeply involved with [Divest Tulane, sexual assault and mental health issues], both publicly and privately talking with a whole variety of individuals,”  Fitts said.
He also detailed efforts he made to help the community, many of which happened behind closed doors.

“The first year when you come to a university with 20,000 or 25,000 people, you know it’s difficult to be seen and talk with all 25,000,” Fitts said. “I am actually looking for additional ways that I can get out over the next year, five years and so on to all the members of the community.”

Fitts’ first year would have been considered challenging by even the most beloved and experienced president. Students fail to realize that there are many administrators that work under Fitts who are more appropriate to hear concerns in certain circuits than him. Students need to know where to direct their feedback so that it is heard, and sometimes Fitts is not the proper audience. It is his responsibility to hold his administrators accountable.

President Fitts is continuing to try and lend his ear to students.

“I may [host office hours] next year,” Fitts said. “It may be a way to let people know there is a way in which you can catch me.” Fitts’ goal is to provide an environment where people learn from each other.

I asked Fitts to give himself a grade for his time at Tulane, and he said,  “Incomplete” since he is not done yet. If I had to give Fitts a letter grade, I would give him a B+.  He worked tirelessly this year to make our experience exceptional. He installed an undergraduate task force, hired a Title IX Administrator, increased psychological services for students and spoke with representatives from Divest Tulane, the Board of Administrators and many more. He would have gotten an A if he had communicated all of the above in a more visible and accessible way.

I urge students to recognize that there are other administrators that can improve your experience just as much, if not more, than Fitts can. We should be proud to call him our president.