Trustees at Pasco-Hernando Community College are to be commended for two decisions they made in regard to choosing a replacement for college President Milton Jones, who is retiring in June 1994 after 21 years at the helm.
The first good decision was to open the search for a successor to anyone in the nation; the second was to alter the make-up of the originally appointed search committee to include more women.
Both decisions indicate PHCC has come of age, and the age is squarely in the 21st century.
The need for a nationwide search for Jones' successor is both necessary and exciting. Although there are several people at PHCC who could quite possibly do a fine job as leader _ and one may very well end up being the best candidate _ a nationwide search lets the academic community, the students and the general population know that the college is serious about putting the best person in the top job.
The thought that PHCC might draw a well-known scholar, author, administrator or public figure is tantalizing. Who knows what famous person might be out there, tired of the big college competition or second in command at a prestige school, and eager to have control over the destiny of a small, growing institution such as PHCC?
Who knows what impressive person might be out there, tired of the cold Northern climes and ready to lead a dynamic school on Florida's fun coast?
By opening the possibility of leadership to everyone, PHCC's board of trustees is opening the door to possibilities unimagined.
The move to alter the gender make-up of the search committee is equally important. It sends the message that every candidate will receive serious consideration. On the original committee, men outnumbered women 18 to 6. The realignment brings that to 15 men and nine women, with the possibility that it could change to 13 men and 11 women after the fall elections at the college's East Campus in Dade City.
This is not to imply that a male-dominated selection committee would be all-out averse to considering a female candidate, but the better gender balance will appear friendlier to women thinking about applying for the president's position.
This is extra important in light of some of the unthinking, infantile behavior of certain members of the PHCC board and faculty following allegations last year by a female student who said she had been raped by two college athletes at a college-sanctioned student apartment. The incident was investigated and dismissed as unfounded by the athletic director. Only after a public outcry was the matter given proper attention. Even then, some PHCC board members balked at instituting rape reporting procedures recommended by the state. One board member even threatened to quit over the matter.
As the Times noted then, the lack of action left the community with the unpleasant impression that PHCC officials were not properly concerned about the woman's accusations.
Since then, the college has put guidelines into place that should head off such cavalier behavior in the future and will go far to make PHCC appear to be a more female-friendly campus.
The selection of a new college president is important to everyone in Pasco and Hernando counties. PHCC has 5,000 full-time and 25,000 part-time students in these two counties, making it an integral part of the educational spectrum.
The person at the top sets the tone for the college and serves as the symbol of upper academics for this area.
PHCC deserve the best.