Thumbs: The Summer Northwestern on city managers, schools of management and mice

Thumbs up to the City of Evanston for finally choosing a new city manager after more than a year with an interim replacement. With a young staff, a crumbling Civic Center and a $145 million shortfall in the police and fire pension funds, Evanston needs a qualified leader. Congratulations on your inheritance, Walter J. Bobkiewicz III. When you start the new job in August, you’ll have plenty of challenges to tackle.

Thumbs up for Northwestern’s decision to give Pat Fitzgerald a seven-year contract extension. Fitzgerald is an accomplished and humble leader who cares as much about success as he does about how it’s achieved. His approach to football is becoming rarer by the year. As a player at Northwestern, he won the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, given to the best defensive college player, twice. He’s invested a combined 12 years into the program at age 34. After steadily improving the program in 2006 and 2007, he took the Wildcats to a bowl game in his third season as head coach. Of almost equal importance, the Wildcats beat Michigan in the Big House for the first time since 1995, when Fitzgerald was on the team. While all victories are important, this one cemented Fitz as a coach that will make Northwestern alumni proud for many years to come.

Thumbs sideways to Northwestern’s 151st Commencement ceremonies, which were put on an “abbreviated” schedule due to the threatening rain. The ceremony lasted about an hour, which proved to be nearly perfect – the downpour, which eventually led to flooding in many North Shore communities, started just as the ceremonies were ending. Keynote speaker Wynton Marsalis made a point of throwing out most of his speech, taking the opportunity to advise graduates to be flexible with their plans. But the speakers evidently weren’t told just how much to shorten their addresses, leading to some odd imbalances. Outgoing University President Henry Bienen’s speech was limited to thank-yous and declarations of pride while student speaker Rene Fabricio Jovel’s fist-pumping “Yes We Can” speech lasted at least twice as long? It’s too bad that the retiring President and the Board of Trustees were too concerned with issues of time to give more detailed farewells.

Thumbs down to the administration for failing to respond to a campaign presented to them in March 2008 by the Humane Society encouraging proper treatment of lab animals. Cruelty toward animals is a highly charged issue. While lab tests are clearly not the most egregious form of animal cruelty, it is clear that killing animals for medical research resides in murky ethical waters. There is certainly merit to the claim that the sacrifice of lab animals in pursuit of a new treatment for cancer or other serious conditions is an appropriate means to an end. But there is also something to be said for treating, and killing, these animals as humanely as possible. To that end, we call on the administration to respond to the issues brought up by Humane Society in one way or another. It has been over a year since the campaign began, and still there has been no response from university officials.

Thumbs down to the administration for not upholding their promise to reveal the location of the new facility for the Kellogg School of Management during Spring Quarter. Although we understand that deciding the location of a world-class business school is no simple task, we believe that we have seen enough promises broken and announcements delayed. Hopefully the recent rumors swirling about the Lindheimer Observatory, Kellogg’s potential new home by the lake, will prompt officials to examine the factors impeding the process so students may see construction within the next year, as the administration had hoped. And with the search for Dean Dipak Jain’s replacement already underway, we could not think of a better time to see Kellogg through some concrete plans regarding its future home.