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Where’s Waldo? The Search for Presidential Leadership at SLU

SLU staff, faculty, and students are being asked to play an administrative game of “Where’s Waldo?,” with the premise of the game being that, somewhere, evidence of President Pestello’s commitment to our mission exists—we just have to search and find it. We’ve searched. We haven’t found it.

In 2015, Pestello’s salary was $682,831, plus house, plus car, plus 6-figure bonus, etc. Here are some places we looked for Waldo but didn’t find him. It leaves us wondering what SLU is getting from this high-priced president.

  • When graduate assistantships are silently being cut in department after department, where is the academic leadership of the president speaking to us about something as significant as the future of graduate education at SLU?
  • Where is our moral leadership, when donations to SLU that the president celebrates unethically allow donors things like positions on academic search committees and on committees evaluating academic grant applications?
  • Did poor presidential leadership have anything to do with the recent departures of numerous well-respected SLU administrators, including former Vice President for Enrollment and Retention Jay Goff, former Vice President for Student Development Kent Porterfield, former Dean of Students Mona Hicks, and, most recently, former Vice President, CIO, and Chief Innovation Officer David Hakanson? (For any president’s cabinet to experience such high turnover is usually a sign of poor or erratic leadership.)
  • When we know that a diverse student body (as well as a more diverse faculty) improves the educational experience for everyone, where is the moral presidential leadership encouraging a determination to recruit (and retain) differently?
  • Where are academic officers like deans supposed to get their cues from, with an absent president and an interim provost?
  • When staff and faculty are being cut, and units across campus are short-handed, why did our already top-heavy administration just add another person (Presidential Communications Director) to the Office of the President? (How many people does Pestello need in charge of communications?)
  • Why is the last message on the president’s website from February 2018?
  • Why does Pestello need a full-time crisis manager? (If the crisis is a lack of leadership, a crisis manager is not the solution.)
  • Where is creative, proactive, moral leadership? Given the effects of climate change we can see right here in St. Louis, where, for example, is the president’s plan for making SLU carbon neutral (or negative)?
  • Where is accountable leadership, when the biennial feedback survey—in which SLU employees get the chance to speak about the administration—has been cancelled? What changes have been made since the last survey highlighted so many problems, especially regarding senior leadership?

The president of SLU needs to be committed to making our academic home a better educational institution and a better workplace; this president seems more committed to his own interests than to our collective mission.

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