OU Provost, Presidential Finalist Benoit Talks Activism, OU’s Funding Future

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In the last of four public forums for Ohio University’s presidential candidates, current OU Executive Vice President and Provost Pam Benoit talked activism and OU’s chances of becoming a sanctuary university, among other topics.

Dr. Pam Benoit

Benoit spoke fondly of her years as a university administrator and Athens resident, and gave her goals as potential successor to Dr. Roderick McDavis.

She has served as provost and executive vice president since 2009, after serving as Vice Provost of Advanced Studies and Dean of the Graduate School for the University of Missouri from 2005 until 2009.

She also served as chair of the Department of Communication for the University of Missouri for four years.

The public forum, held at Baker University Ballroom on Tuesday, included questions from the audience that bounced from activism to enrollment and university rankings, from campus mobility to intercollegiate athletics.

She began by talking about being a first-generation student motivating her in education.

“My parents scrimped and saved so that I could go to college, and I worked while I was in college, and it was really important for them that I had an education,” Benoit said.

She said she wants to become president of OU because the institution shares her passion for continuing to be a quality institution.

“There are times when a university needs to shake things up and…go in a different direction,” Benoit said. “OU is not at that place. We are in a good place right now.”

The biggest challenge to higher education is state funding, Benoit told the audience. She gave examples of fighting for funding sources for the Ohio University Innovation Strategy’s second year and meeting with department heads to discuss funding cuts before they took effect.

When asked where she stood on students participating in activism on campus, Benoit said she does “embrace” student demonstration as a way to develop socially and professionally.

“I would much rather have students who are active rather than passive,” she said.

The provost was also asked about the potential of the immigration policy Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and whether she would support the university becoming a “sanctuary university” for immigrants. While she said she was fully in favor of “protecting students,” she would not support a policy that wasn’t a part of federal policy.

Sexual assault on campus was also brought up during the forum, which Benoit said was a topic that needed discussion. She did not support the idea brought up during the forum, which referred to a California congressional bill that would require transcripts to note violations of campus policies, including sexual violence. She said she hesitates to support including pending cases of sexual violence, but agreed it was a topic that needed more discussion at OU.

Benoit praised the university’s amount of tenure-track faculty positions, promoted transparency within the university and sustainability efforts. She said the university needed to become more visible throughout the state and nation, pledging that as president she would push the university community to “blow our horn more often.”

She also noted that athletics was the “front door to the university” in terms of national promotion. She said academics needs to be the focus of the university, but athletics plays an important part in the “diversity” of the institution.

Benoit has a Ph.D. in Communication from Wayne State University, a Masters in Communication from Central Michigan University and a Bachelor’s in Speech/English from Ball State University.

The other three finalists, Dr. Duane Nellis, Dr. Dean Bresciani and Dr. Robert Frank, hosted public forums last week.

You can see reports on those forums here:

Dr. Duane Nellis

Dr. Dean Bresciani

Dr. Robert Frank