Michael Schill outlines priorities for his tenure as University president during Family Weekend speech


Esther Lim/The Daily Northwestern

The outside of Cahn Auditorium, where University President Michael Schill gave a speech Friday.

Talia Winiarsky, Reporter

University President Michael Schill said he will prioritize strengthening mental health resources, emphasizing diversity and inclusion and promoting civil discourse during his tenure in a Friday speech to students and families. 

Attendees filled Cahn Auditorium to hear Schill speak, many for the first time since he assumed the position seven weeks before, during Family Weekend. After his remarks, Schill and other administrators responded to audience questions. 

“Your children are our number-one priority,” Schill said. “Ultimately, we are going to be judged by the quality of the experience of our students and your children.”

Schill first addressed mental health on campus. He said the quarter system, compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic, has greatly increased the number of students seeking mental support.

Garrett Gilmer, executive director of Counseling and Psychological Services, responded to a parent’s concerns about long wait times for the office’s appointments, citing the Same Day Access service. 

Gilmer said the service, which started in September 2021, allows students to immediately walk into the office for non-emergency matters, although the online scheduling system may have a longer wait time. Students have historically voiced concerns about delays and inadequacies in CAPS services. Gilmer added that students in crisis can call the office any time for immediate assistance.

Discussing his focus on inclusion, Schill said while the school already promotes diversity — noting about one-fifth of students are Pell Grant-eligible and the University commits funding to financial aid  — the next step is making all students “feel like they belong here.” 

Toward the end of his remarks, Schill emphasized the importance of civil discourse. Students should have conversations with people different from themselves while understanding how their words affect others, he said.

“Just because you have the right to say something — which I will defend to the very ends of this Earth — doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do,” Schill said. 

While Schill outlined general priorities, he didn’t announce specific academic goals. However, he said he wants to “burnish and polish Northwestern’s gems,” which include its economics, sociology and materials science departments, among others. He said he wants to identify which other departments can reach a similar status with increased University investment.

Francis James, a parent who attended the event, said he would’ve liked to have heard more about the specifics of Schill’s goals. Although the school has a lot to offer its students, James hopes Schill’s vision for the school can increase its national stature.

“This is still a regional university — it’s still Midwestern,” James said. “He should make this a first-choice university.” 

James, who traveled 20 hours from Gabon to visit, was a student at the University of California, Los Angeles’ law school about 15 years before Schill served as its dean. He said he still remembers Schill’s outgoing personality and high energy.

This weekend was parent Michelle Miulli’s second time visiting for Family Weekend. She was a “big fan” of former University President Morton Schapiro and said she hopes she’ll like Schill just as much. 

Miulli said attending the speech and getting to know the University president, as well as participating in other Family Weekend events, provided her a perspective on her daughter’s college experience. 

“It’s nice to be here and be part of her world for a couple of days,” Miulli said. 

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