Porterfield for President

“Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now.” Alan Lakein, time-management expert

Last week, members of The University News learned that Vice President of Student Development Kent Porterfield is interviewing for a swanky new job. Porterfield, a three-year veteran of Saint Louis University’s upper administration, is up for the position of president at his alma mater, Northwest Missouri State University.

This is great news for Porterfield but sad news for SLU. Of all of SLU’s upper administrators, Porterfield is the most tactful. While some administrators’ communication strategies include patronizing airs and condescending smiles, Porterfield is respectful, levelheaded and polite. He follows through on phone calls. In disagreements, he treats colleagues and opponents fairly.

Porterfield seems to be cognizant of the fact that he was hired to serve students, the true customers of this corporate University.

We would expect nothing less from a man in his position. As VP of Student Development, Porterfield is responsible for student affairs outside of the classroom. He oversees Residence Life, the Department of Student Life, First Year Experience, the Busch Student Center, Recreation, Greek Life, food services, the book store and student conduct. The list goes on.

Porterfield has not always been successful. A new policy that requires underclassmen to live on campus will house more bodies in Midtown, yet there’s still no place to put them. This vice president might also have exerted more time and energy into facilitating the integration of this year’s international student influx.

Porterfield was hired to keep his finger on the student pulse, and he has performed well. He is no mythic hero, but he has served SLU as a well-mannered Joseph whose coat of many colors proves his suitability for leadership.

With high marks in tact and a decent performance review, students will likely take Porterfield’s potential departure with mixed feelings of both pride and loss.

Now, this question remains for the rest of SLU’s administrative fraternity: How will you replace Porterfield? Students have heard of no solid plan to replace him, should he become president at NMSU. In the interim, it’s clear that Porterfield’s Student Development subordinates will have to take up the slack that his departure might create.

Whether Porterfield stays at SLU or moves on to greener collegiate pastures, administrators have a responsibility to treat students with the same tact that this vice president reserved for students. They must quickly fill his position with a new administrator who is just as respectful and even more vigilant than Porterfield.

Student Development, what’s your contingency plan?