EDITORIAL: Welcome, Fr. Pilarz

After 15 years, Marquette bids farewell to the Rev. Robert A. Wild and ushers in a new era with the arrival of the Rev. Scott R. Pilarz. An “out with the old, in with the new” anticipation sweeps across campus, and the entire Marquette community gets to ask the question, “What do we want this new guy to do?”

The imminent inaugural school year for Pilarz marks a rare opportunity for Marquette’s student body to address their hopes and concerns for the school and its new president. The last time students had the chance to help shape the direction of a new president was in 1996. If all goes well with Pilarz, Marquette will not have such an opportunity again for a long time.

This means that we, the current students, hold the power to tell the new administration what we think the future should hold for our 130-year-old university.

With all eyes of Marquette’s community and the city of Milwaukee upon him, Pilarz has begun his time here making an extra effort to take cues from students first. Whether for purposes of publicity, integrity or a combination of the two, he has made a commitment to listen and be open to our suggestions, perhaps more than any other time in the future.

Pilarz’s predecessor, Wild, went down in university history as one of its most transformational leaders. His accomplishments helped distinguish Marquette as one of the nation’s leading Jesuit schools, and enrollment grew larger than ever.

In other words, Pilarz has some big shoes to fill.

He has already done an admirable job expressing his desire to truly be a students’ president. It is heartening to see him greet students around campus and live in a Campus Town apartment. His gesture of gathering students for dinner to hear their thoughts about the university is equally encouraging. We hope these efforts foreshadow the type of administration he will run; efforts that will not diminish once routine sets in and his newness fades.

Even so, Pilarz begins his presidency after notable controversies over the past two years, specifically last spring’s allegations of sexual assault made against student athletes and the spring 2010 decision to rescind the offer of open position of Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences to Jodi O’Brien, an out lesbian professor of sociology from Seattle University.

We are curious to see if, and how, he addresses the restructuring of university sexual assault policies, and anticipate a continuation of dialogue concerning the LGBTQ community at Marquette. Pilarz’s direction of these discussions will indicate the way he wants to ensure our campus is one of inclusion, and welcoming to all.

Not only does Pilarz take up his new post in the wake of recent conflict and unrest, but he begins his time here after a summer with an unusually high number of crime reports on and around campus. In evaluating this influx of DPS notices, we ask whether crime always rises and falls in similar waves, or if safety on campus is an issue that requires further investigation.

We are excited that Pilarz shows so much interest in students’ opinions. Education works best when administration, faculty and students listen to and value each other’s ideas.

But we are just as eager to see what his own ideas are for both the immediate and distant futures. We want to know how his goals differ from his predecessor’s. It is not every day that a community of 11,800 students faces a blank page such as this one.

Only time will tell what shall be written.

So from us to you, Fr. Pilarz: Welcome to our family, and welcome to what we hope will be a brand new, rejuvenated chapter of Marquette history.