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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Editorial: Young makes the first steps like an old pro, but his move off campus sets troubling tone

Photo By: Nikita Redkar
The A&M president’s home has remained empty since R. Bowen Loftin left office.
Photo By: Nikita Redkar The A&M president’s home has remained empty since R. Bowen Loftin left office.

Even without a bowtie or Aggie Ring, incoming A&M president Michael K. Young ably engaged with students Monday in a manner unseen at A&M since its last president left for Missouri.
Young was candid, funny and confident in a meeting with student leaders. He made a warm impression.
But later that morning, administration made a misstep when Chancellor John Sharp announced Young would live off campus.
Vacant since R. Bowen Loftin left for Missouri, the on-campus president’s home to Earl Rudder, Ray Bowen and Robert Gates will remain empty. Shifting from Loftin, the president of graduation selfies, to one housed away from campus is a shock.
The residence will be used to host dignitaries, donors and former students. The home will doubtless be more valuable to the university in this function — particularly on game weekends — but what about the rest of the year? Already the vice president of student affairs residence sits empty. Cain Hall will soon give way to a hotel. Too often, administration has prioritized the comfort of its donors and friends over the student experience.
Prior classes of students knew where to find their campus leaders. Now, no student will tell his or her friends of a time Young invited them in for lemonade or cookies, which Loftin did with some regularity.
It’s not clear whether Young had any part in the choice. He joked, “The explanation to me was, ‘Get your own damn house.’” But whoever signed off on it weakened Young’s foundation with students before he even took office and marred an otherwise stellar public appearance from the new president.
Texas A&M is about togetherness. Young seems to understand that — when asked, he told student leaders Muster is his favorite tradition. But this is a unique university and anyone dropped into its culture faces a steep learning curve of traditions and quirks. Moving Young off campus steepens that curve and frays ties between the president and the students.
Young has been in higher education since most members of this student body were busy learning to walk. He has done this before. Twice he has assumed the leadership of a university — at Utah in 2004 and Washington in 2011 — and his experience in endearing himself to students shows. The meeting with student leaders was smartly positioned before the general media availability in a “students come first” gesture that did not go unnoticed.
A less confident administrator might have kept staff in the room. Young didn’t. He answered every question put before him and came armed with a lighthearted joke about the BYU-Utah rivalry, which could easily have been swapped for A&M and UT, to similar effect.
Young has the ability to be a student’s president, even from off campus. His presidency has only begun to take shape, and his personality will be well received among Aggies.
It’s unfortunate, then, that students won’t get to see him where he belongs — in the president’s home.

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