The state of the university

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As the editorial board contemplated the State of the Union address, we decided to give our thoughts on the state of SLU.  Consider this a progress report for SLU President Fred Pestello as he enters his second semester at the helm.

Upon his arrival in July, students noticed the large amount of time he spent meeting and talking to people on West Pine.  He seemed to be out there every day, and unlike former President Lawrence Biondi, Pestello rarely used a golf cart.

Whether a calculated public-relations move, or the trademark of an outgoing personality, we see that this informal outreach to the SLU community has been extremely important to the President since his arrival. In addition to the casual meet-and-greets, Pestello has also made the conscious effort to visit many of the Chartered Student Organizations at SLU to establish contact with student leaders across campus. In addition, Pestello reportedly attends every SLU men’s basketball game and cheers the Billikens on- not from a box- but in the stands. His ALS “ice bucket challenge” with the athletic department last fall, and the establishment of his personal Twitter profile (@SLUPresident) to reach students, parents and the rest of the University community, testifies to his dedication to accessibility.

Another aspect of Pestello’s tenure we admire has been his commitment to slated projects.  After introducing the new housing plan at SLU, seemingly only days later, construction crews broke ground for the new residential hall between the Simon Recreational Center and Beracha Hall, along Laclede Street.  Likewise, at the conclusion of Occupy SLU, SLU officials, Tribe-X members, Black Student Alliance members and the Metro St. Louis Coalition for Inclusion and Equality signed a number of agreements regarding the recruitment and retention of black students at SLU, and various other community outreach programs.  Quickly thereafter, numerous committees sprung up to execute the agreements. While the success of these various agreements remain to be seen, we believe that Pestello’s penchant to act quickly, illustrates his good faith in the University community to accomplish its goals.

Finally, we’ve been extremely impressed with Pestello’s ability to handle controversy and contribute to dialogue. On a small scale, Pestello helped many people who, by accident, illegally parked on SLU’s parking lots because a scammer offered the space to people seeing a show at the Fox.  Pestello waived the SLU parking tickets given to the unwitting patrons; an act of grace that one editor said would not have happened two years prior.  Even the decision to allow a sit-in on campus would have been an impossible feat previously.

On a much bigger scale, Pestello’s ability to juggle the demands of student-protesters, students, parents, and other St. Louis community members, while contributing to SLU’s campus-wide dialogue by offering valuable insights in his daily emails, was nothing short of a masterpiece. While there is still much to accomplish for the University, overall, unlike the state of the Union, the state of SLU is actually quite strong, and Pestello is one to thank.