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EWU's interim president makes his case for why he should have the job permanently

Zoom screenshot/EWU presidential candidate forum
David May speaks at a campus forum in Cheney.

David May is the second of four candidates to receive the spotlight this week.

The interim president of Eastern Washington University today [Wednesday] made his case for why he should have the job on a permanent basis. David May was the second of four finalists to meet this week with the campus community.

Three of the four finalists will tell faculty, staff and students how they would approach the job of EWU president. Interim President David May began his presentation at a campus forum with a different approach.

“There’s a cliche of hitting the ground running. I’m not going to hit the ground running. I’ve been on the ground running for 18 months," May told the crowd.

He listed some of the university’s accomplishments during his tenure and initiatives that are in the pipeline. Those include creation of a new cybersecurity and cyberdefense program and plans to help satisfy the high demand for nurses.

“I’m tired of sending a small number of students to WSU to have a WSU nursing degree," he said. "There are 6,000 nursing jobs in the state of Washington right now. It’s going to take a lot of shovels to fill that hole and I want to be that solution to a regional need.”

One of the things he has that the other candidates don’t is a record of leading the university. During a series of private meetings and three public forums he shared his accomplishments and vision for the university.

He also had to defend that record. During one forum, faculty members and staff had some tough questions, including this one from Physics Professor David Syphers. It was voiced by a forum moderator.

“The faculty evaluations conducted this year show that faculty broadly do not have confidence in your leadership of the institution with particular concerns around shared governance, appropriate consultation, internal leadership and your vision for the university. If selected as the permanent president, how would you repair your relationship with the faculty to allow the campus to move forward in a unified way?”

“I would answer it by starting out talking about a time where I didn’t do it right, where I made a mistake," May said.

“We had to make a decision about making a vaccine mandate on our campus. I talked to a lot of people and I still think that I, again, the buck stops on my desk, that I made the right decision to not have a vaccine mandate initially," he said. "That’s not based on my opinion. I talked to people who know a lot more about these things than I do. But my mistake was not involving the campus community in those discussions. I consulted with a lot of experts, but I didn’t talk to the people who were going to be most intimately affected by that decision. That’s a mistake.”

The third of the four finalists, Washington State University College of Medicine Dean John Tomkowiak, will tour Eastern’s Cheney and Spokane campuses and meet with a variety of groups on Thursday.

One of the Northwest's most seasoned reporters is returning to his SPR roots. Doug Nadvornick will be heard frequently on KPBX and KSFC reporting on local news.