Although Ohio State does not have a permanent leader at its helm, Interim President Joseph Alutto isn’t taking that as an excuse to stop the university’s progress.
Alutto, who has been interim president since former OSU President E. Gordon Gee’s retirement July 1, said he hopes to leave the university a better place than he found it.
“I hope to accomplish what I’ve hoped to accomplish at every position I’ve had,” Alutto said in an interview with The Lantern Sept. 23. “Which is by the time I leave here, I hope this will be a better institution as a result of what I’ve been able to do.”
Alutto served as executive vice president and provost of the university from October 2007 until June 30, and he served as interim president from July 1, 2007, to Sept. 30, 2007, between former President Karen Holbrook and Gee’s second term at the university. Alutto was also previously the dean of the Fisher College of Business.
He said he has four main goals for his term, including drawing in quality students, faculty and staff, creating new programs and providing key resources.
As far as drawing “the very best possible students” goes, Alutto said there are some issues that need to be overcome.
“It’s a balancing issue as we deal with the question of access to excellence,” he said. “Access is really just a matter of keeping costs as low as possible and you provide access as a result of that to students, a wide variety of students.
“And excellence is actually easy … It’s hiring the very best faculty and staff and spending all your resources to do that. So to do either access or excellence really doesn’t take much talent. To do access to excellence, however, to combine those two, that attention built into who we are as an institution and it’s that balance that I think is so important for us as we go forward.”
He went on to say OSU needs to work on containing its costs.
“Any institution as large as Ohio State has areas where it can do a better job of restraining and controlling cost issues,” Alutto said. “I know that there (are) areas where we could do things better and more efficiently, which means we take some of the pressure off the affordability question.”
Some OSU students said they agree that cost savings are important.
“Cost efficiency (leads to) savings for students in the long-run,” said Michael Schuler, a fourth-year in industrial and systems engineering. “Right now, I know we have a huge problem as far as affordability for college for many students, and I think that should be the goal of all university (presidents) right now, to really decrease those costs, to make secondary education something that’s really attainable for everyone.”
Other students said OSU should be especially frugal in its time of transition.
“Until we have an official president who can set long-term goals, I don’t think we should unnecessarily spend money,” said Nick Bashian, a second-year in chemistry.
Bashian said Alutto should work to connect with students more.
“I feel like Gee had a better connection with students,” he said. “I like that about a president, and I feel like Alutto should try to do the same thing more.”
Alutto said his goal of creating programs would help draw all faculty and students together.
“You can bring great students to an institution, you can hire great faculty, but unless you create programs, it doesn’t pay off for either one of them. It’s to make sure that we continue to have new programs, strengthen the programs we have, and decide how to distribute those resources of students to faculty,” he said.
He did have a fifth and final goal to add, though.
“I would hope to leave this in a situation where the next president doesn’t worry about any of the basic issues,” Alutto said. “Where the next president knows what our strategic plans are, knows that we’ve made progress and are committed to those, and then, as a result of that, can lead us in some new directions. And if that happens, this will be a successful presidency.”
Gee announced his retirement June 4, days after controversial remarks Gee made at a Dec. 5 OSU Athletic Conference meeting became public. Comments about Notre Dame and the Southeastern Conference in particular brought national attention.
The finalized presidential profile, an eight-page document which describes the qualities of the ideal next president meant to be sent to potential candidates, was released Oct. 2. The document is set to be formally approved by the Board at its Nov. 7 and 8 meeting.
The Presidential Search Committee’s advisory subcommittee expected to be finished with the university portrait, a 30 to 40 page document intended to be a recruitment tool to inform candidates of OSU’s attractive qualities, by the end of October or the first week of November as of Oct. 7, OSU spokesman Gary Lewis said in an email.
A Sept. 15 university statement said all candidates and finalists of the presidential search will be kept private.
Presidential Search Committee Chair Jeffrey Wadsworth said July 19 the process is expected to take about 300 days based on how long searches take at other universities considering outside candidates.
Daniel Fyffe contributed to this article.