September 21, 2019

Editorial: Stroble is in the House

Last week, The Journal reported that President Elizabeth Stroble was currently pursuing a campus owned and operated presidential residence. While the Board of Trustees has not yet finalized the specifics of the residence, we do know a few things. We know it will be somewhere on the newly acquired Eden property and it will be a building already designated for residential use.
Stroble, as well as other administrators contacted about the residence, indicated it was normal for universities to provide on-campus residential accommodations for campus presidents. Stroble will use the residence to entertain visiting foreign dignitaries, campus officials and even host student functions.
While The Journal applauds any attempts by campus administrators to further connect to students, we can’t help but wonder if that is the driving force behind this decision.
While a typical campus might use the presidential residence for a number of “official,” functions, Webster University is not a typical campus. Since Stroble will not be utilizing the residence as an actual home (unlike campuses like the University of Kansas, whose president lives in his residence in the heart of campus living) it seems egregious to suddenly feel the need to provide a residence for the president.
The university is currently walking a fine line with the community in terms of land acquisition and expansion. In a legal battle in which every square foot counts, can we really afford to provide some of our new land to a presidential residence? Was not the stated purpose of the recent deal with Eden to provide a wider range of educational facilities for the students?
Other typical campuses do not always encounter these kinds of problems with expansion and development. But as Webster continues to strain the limits of the Grove’s space, administrators are giving it away all in the name of tradition and ceremony.
Webster has a number of facilities to welcome any visitors to our campus and the lack of a residential welcome has never stopped our school from bringing interesting and important individuals to the university. To suddenly suggest that now is the time to provide such a basic “necessary” tool for the president is almost laughably foolish.
With groups like the Residents for Webster Groves continuing to watch university expansion closely and protest new developments, we cannot afford to appear ungrateful or unworthy of the land that we have. President Stroble is a good leader and a benefit to this university, but the priorities of the university to lavish her with trivial, meaningless symbols of tradition are irresponsible at best. Decisions about land should be made based on need, not want.

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