The benefits of experience

Tom Williams, yesterday made Queen’s 19th principal, seems to have filled the position with an unlooked for amount of enthusiasm. And we appreciate that. It’s certainly not a job we would want.

At a time when the top job at one of the country’s top school’s is less an honour than a trial and the members of the University from the students up have been taking flak for bad decisions, the Board of Trustees has taken a step in the right direction in bringing in someone with 31 years of Queen’s experience.

Having witnessed Hitchcock’s term, Williams has been able to monitor such issues as the Queen’s Centre overrun and departmental budget cuts, both of which he has now been saddled with.

Though it’s impossible to anticipate all of the challenges of the next 12 to 14 months, he probably has a clearer idea than most of what’s ahead for him. And lucky for him the University has removed the word “interim” from his title, allowing him the full freedom of a long-term appointee despite his relatively short timeline.

Despite the expiry date on his principalship, he’s showing no signs of short-sightedness, having already begun holding meetings to discuss Queen’s Centre debt and announcing his intention to release a plan of action by September.

His commitment to improving the University despite the length of his term as principal also seems to be an indication of his dedication to the University. Having already established himself in the community, he has no need to use the position to build his own reputation and is under little pressure to prove himself.

He has already indicated he won’t be seeking reappointment next year which should allow for a smoother transition to the permanent principal when it’s time for him to gracefully fade from the picture.

This is not a job that leaves any room for delusions of grandeur, and hopefully Williams will be able to maintain the solid head he appears to have firmly planted on his shoulders.

While the situation is not ideal by any stretch of the imagination, Williams is likely in a better position that anyone to help Queen’s start to dig its way out of the pit (pardon the analogy) it has dug itself into. At least no one can say he wasn’t warned.

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