Board of Trustees unanimously extends Veitch's contract

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After a two-year assessment of President Jonathan Veitch’s tenure as president, the Board of Trustees announced its unanimous decision to extend his contract through 2020.

The board’s assessment reviewed several factors in its decision to extend Veitch’s contract, namely his execution of the strategic plan, his recruitment of both students and faculty and his extensive work in raising more money for the college and its initiatives.

The Board of Trustees also took into account Veitch’s handling of sexual assaults on campus, which has concerned students and alumni alike. Despite the criticism, Chairman Chris Calkins ’67 said Veitch’s leadership has made Occidental a pioneer in developing stronger policies against sexual assault.

“Occidental ended up being in a leadership position in trying to aggressively address sexual assault in the whole issue of misbehavior on campus,” Calkins said. “We are leading the way in solutions even if it doesn’t feel fast enough for people. We are clearly ahead of many colleges and universities.”

Looking back on his time so far, Veitch said one of his biggest accomplishments was reestablishing effective leadership.

“When I first came the biggest challenge was to reestablish connections, and we did that with the addition to Swan Hall and the new fitness center, which we converted [from] the alumni gym, just to show people that we could get things done,” Veitch said.

Now that his contract has been extended by six years, Veitch wants to focus on expanding the urban component of the strategic plan. His initiatives include developing connections with major cultural institutions, establishing internship opportunities with non-profits and other businesses and developing civic engagement.

The formal process of assessing Veitch’s leadership began in the 2012-2013 school-year. The Board of Trustees, specifically the executive committee headed by Calkins, was the sole party involved in deciding how to evaluate the president.

According to Faculty Council President Nalsey Tinberg, faculty members were not consulted in the process. She did note that the announcement of his contract extension to students was new this year.

Calkins said the importance of his contract renewal warranted a campus-wide announcement.

“We believe it was important for the community to know that the president’s leadership would continue,” Calkins said via email. “The event provided an opportunity to emphasize the direction of the college and its continuing commitment to excellence and diversity in all areas.”

The college had over five presidents between 2000 and 2009, when the Board of Trustees hired Veitch. According to Calkins, Veitch’s continued employment is especially beneficial to the college as an institution, to those who work here and to the students who will attend the college in the future.

“One of the great advantages of having a president who will stay for an extended period is the opportunity to really develop [long term relationships] and to carry a consistent message both about what the institution wants to accomplish and the leadership for all those within the institution,” Calkins said.

Veitch took into account this aspect of his job when he considered his contract extension.

“These schools absolutely benefit from longevity,” Veitch said. “When you have turnover in the president’s office, and it’s happened in Occidental’s past, it means in terms of fundraising starting over relationships all over again. It means the college not having a clear direction for a while until a new person is in place and learns the ropes.”