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OU has never had a woman president; women thrive in other positions

Ohio University has been around for over 215 years. In that time, it has seen 22 presidents, including President Hugh Sherman, but not one of them has been a woman.

Looking at other universities in the state of Ohio, there are several that have had women presidents. Kent State University had its first woman president, Carol Cartwright, from 1991 to 2006 and its second, Beverly Warren, from 2014 to 2019. Bowling Green State University also had Cartwright as its first woman president from 2008 to 2011, its second being Mary Ellen Mazey from 2011 to 2017. Other public universities in Ohio such as Ohio State University, University of Akron, Miami University and University of Cincinnati have all had at least one woman serve as president, leaving OU as an outlier.

While a university’s president is a key role that keeps it running, there are plenty of other roles at OU that are just as important that women have held.

Eddith Dashiell, director of the school of journalism, is an established woman in journalism and at OU. Dashiell worked as a broadcast journalist for seven years prior to coming to the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism to teach in 1992. Since then, Dashiell has held the titles of associate director for undergraduate studies, associate dean for undergraduate programs in the Scripps College of Communication and assistant provost for multicultural graduate affairs. 

Dashiell’s work as a professor has earned her many titles as well, including the 1997-1998 student-voted Ohio University Professor Award, the 2013-2014 L.J. Hortin Faculty Mentor Award from the Scripps College of Communication and the 2019 Ohio University Chapman Clapp Outstanding Advisor Award. 

“If (women and people of color) are paid attention to and they’re taken seriously, their input can help shape students’ experience because it’s not all from one point of view,” Dashiell said. “I can look at an email or policy, and my interpretation is completely different than someone else’s. (When) understanding those differences and how other people think or might perceive that decision, I think it helps to be inclusive and to have more females and people of color at the higher levels.”

Julie White is a professor of political science as well as a core faculty member of the women’s, gender and sexuality studies department at OU. White’s work has focused a lot on the ethical and political aspects of care-work and has authored or contributed to multiple published books and has had articles published in several academic journals. 

Additionally, White has received the University Professor Award, the College of Arts & Sciences Outstanding Teacher Award, the Grasselli Brown Teaching Award and both the Outstanding Tutor and Outstanding Mentor Awards from the Honors Tutorial College. White teaches politics and women’s, gender and sexuality studies-related courses in addition to a collaboration with colleague Brian Collins that gives students the opportunity to gain India-based study abroad experience at Gawande College.

“It’s interesting that in a context where, nationwide, we have about one-third of university presidents identifying as female that Ohio University has not yet had a female president, especially because we have had strong leadership from women in the position of provost here,” White said in an email. “I think it is also important to recognize that the struggle to see women in these positions is not merely symbolic. It is about the hope that with more diverse leadership, we make an institution that is attentive to concerns of a diverse university community.”

Julie Cromer, director of athletics at OU, assumed her role as the first female athletic director in 2019. Cromer came to OU from the University of Arkansas and has since seen the men’s basketball team bring home a Mid-American Conference Tournament win, the women’s basketball team at the Women’s National Invitation Tournament twice and NCAA graduation rates hit a record high of 92% in 2021. 

“I think it’s important that all leaders are able to understand the experiences of the people they serve,” Cromer said. “I look for our leaders to be able to empathize with and support and lead a variety of people from a variety of backgrounds and life experiences.”

During Cromer’s first two years on the job and despite the pandemic, OU has continued to lead successful sport-specific fundraisers to improve facilities such as the The Convo, Peden Stadium, Ohio Softball Field and Bob Wren Stadium. One of the first student initiatives Cromer started, the social justice-focused group Bobcats Lead Change, has also flourished.

The university should continue its commitment to diversity but especially in the roles that make the day-to-day decisions for the university, Dashiell said. Roles in the vice president’s office or the provost office are places where having people of color and women would have a big impact because of how they influence policy. 

“You have to demonstrate diversity on a campus,” Dashiell said. “The university has a responsibility to not only hire people but (have) inclusion. I’d like to get to the point in our society where it’s not newsworthy anymore. Having a female president at a university should be so commonplace that it doesn’t need to be pointed out.”


Tate Raub

Opinion Editor

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