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The Blue & Gray Press | October 19, 2017

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Staff Editorial: Leadership and the Hurley Honeymoon

Since taking the helm of Mary Washington in the wake of last year’s, er, administrative shake-up, President Rick Hurley has generally played all the right cards.  He lifted the freeze on faculty salaries.

He helped frustrated fathers put up dorm-room lofts. He lent an air of transparency to a position that, this time last year, seemed mostly shrouded in mystery.

Not to mention that you’d be hard pressed to find a student on campus who doesn’t at least know someone who has had a personal conversation with the guy.  At this point, Hurley couldn’t buy himself a bad reputation, not even for all the gold-and-diamond-plated bookshelves in Brompton.

This is all, obviously, fantastic for Mary Washington, but unfortunately it’s given many the impression that there’s nothing more to being a great president than transparency, approachability and a wicked-awesome moustache.

To Hurley’s credit, though, he seems more aware than anyone that the “Golden Age of Hurley” can’t last forever.

Taking the podium amid yet another standing ovation, Hurley began his inaugural address to faculty and staff this semester with a telling, albeit joking, comment.

“I really worry about all of this standing ovation stuff,” Hurley said.  “What are you going to be telling me when you don’t stand up?”

Hopefully, we’ll be telling him that we aren’t just a mindless campus body and that we care about the future of this institution.

Granted, in the wake of our last string of presidents, it’s been easy to trumpet anyone who hasn’t alienated the entire campus or pulled into Brompton on three tires and an empty bottle of cough syrup as a savior of Mary Washington.

But, in the semester to come, we shouldn’t let our infatuation with a friendly, approachable, refreshingly straight-forward guy distract us from what also counts as a leader: his vision for the future.

And, for anyone who paid attention to Hurley’s inaugural address, it’s pretty clear that the man is about more than just jokes and handshakes.

In just his first couple months in office, Hurley has already laid out a fairly ambitious vision for the university that includes more residence-hall renovations, an enrollment cap, a new performing arts center and a Dahlgren-like expansion to Quantico.

For the moment, we’re not weighing in on whether any of these things are inherently good or bad for the university. But these are major changes that should inspire heated discussion among the campus community, not blind acceptance.

The problem here is that unlike our previous president, whom people seemed to relish taking to task with rumors of a massive shoe collection and an underground tunnel, the campus desperately wants to love Hurley.

The trick is to not let this desire keep us from questioning the people that directly shape our university.  The great thing about Hurley and his open-door policy is that, for once, we have a president that seems willing to provide the answers.