Today: May 29, 2024

Looking back: Battle’s first year as interim president

MONICA SZAKACS, NEWS WRITER:

After former President Cheryl Norton left Southern, Stanley Battle, current interim president, was appointed by the Board of Trustees one year ago. He said his initial reaction was that it was an intense environment when he arrived.
Battle said he did an opening speech on the immediate intense issue at hand, which he said Patrick Dilger, public affairs, wrote parts of.
“The reality is that I talked about the pain on this campus and the challenges that the campus faced as a result of me coming into the situation,” said Battle. “Clearly I didn’t have anything to do with what was waiting for me. I was sort of in the middle.”
Michael Shea, English department chair, said after the BOT fired the former president, he said the board did not pay attention to the concerns expressed by the community and the faculty senate or gave a chance for the university to say who they wanted interim president to be.
“That makes it difficult for the person to come in when the community hasn’t had a say,” said Shea. “I think he adapted and overcame the obstacle he faced and showed himself
over time to be the best choice and do the job efficiently, but it took time for people to see that.”
According to Battle, he had a lot of experience and if he was not comfortable with himself, then he said it did not make any sense for him to come to Southern. The first thing Battle said he did was walk the campus.
“Anybody wanted to talk let’s talk,” said Battle. “Some people knew who I was, others did not and I tried my best to treat everybody the same way whether they were a custodian, grounds keeper or full professor or senior administrator, people are people and that’s what I did.”
Ben McNamee, student government president, agrees that Battle has done well with listening to students concerns. According to McNamee, the first time he met with him over the summer with regards to the student advisory committee, Battle talked about getting a list together of students who would be good for the committee that McNamee knew and he invited other students through blast e-mail.
There is an open forum setting where Battle sits in front of the room and anyone that wants to say what they feel can express their thoughts.
“He either addresses it right then and there or he writes it down and says he will get to it when he gets back because it will take research or something,” said McNamee. “But that’s been really receptive to the students that go to that.”
Battle said he believes he made an extensive effort to communicate to people to a degree where he has not seen done before, and said he thinks the effort made some important
dividend.
“I’ve been in here at 3:00 in the morning when you’re asleep and had breakfast with people at 5 a.m. when you’re asleep,” said Battle. “To do that, it means you don’t worry about the time, you don’t worry about the clock. We have people who work third shift, so that’s when they work then that’s when I come in.”
Settling in, Battle said there are certain missions, goals vision statements and objectives for the institution that are important and critical to adhere. Then, he said there were four searches that were already in place that were dealt with and preceded. There were significant projects that had to be addressed as well.
“The Library and the school of business, which was not up to regulations, such as mold issues, needed immediate attention,” said Battle. “The old student center can clearly be seen in horrible and hazardous conditions—there are two legged things and four legged things walking
around.”
Battle has moved a lot of projects forward that has also been the work of a lot of people, such as getting the money from the state for the new School of Business, renovating the old student center and Buley Library, along with other projects, according to McNamee, president of the Student Government Association.
.“I think that’s something that is positive,” said McNamee. “It’s kind of that he finished up those projects that was already in work and now we can have our new buildings begin construction again.”
Shea said he thinks Battle tried to make himself as available as a human being can be with people across campus—faculty, staff and students. He said he describes Battle as being an ethical, straight forward man who tries to do the right thing.
“He’s tried to make his proposed plans of things like budget transparent and invited anyone in the University to come to the budget discussions by the budget planning committee,” said Shea. “He meets regularly with union leaders, faculty leaders and student leaders.”
McNamee said Battle has done a lot of outreach with the community and said that is something Southern could have always done better and now a higher standard has been achieved.
“People in New Haven specifically are looking to Southern as the University in New Haven compared to some of the other ones around and is getting more credit from everybody else,” said McNamee. “I think it’s good that we are getting out into the community. I think that’s something he has pushed really hard.”

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