On Oct. 12, protestors took to the streets denouncing gender-based violence on campus and the university’s slow and insufficient response to the recent events. Marching down Main Street, Newark, they chanted the slogan “where is Dennis?”
To university students, the sentiment behind this phrase was immediately obvious. Despite the fact that Dennis Assanis is the president of the university, and thus the outward face of the institution, he did not put out a statement concerning the violent assault until after the protests had gained national attention. The lack of response to this issue grated on many students; is violence against students not worthy of instant recognition at the highest levels of this university?
Unfortunately, this inattention to student concerns is just the latest in a long line of ham-fisted responses to university crises that have been too little and too late. Students still discuss the rollout of the university’s COVID-19 policy back in March of 2020, when most of us discovered that we would be sent home for an indefinite amount of time through either Instagram or word of mouth. President Assanis, again, was late to make a statement, leaving the student body without answers in a moment when a leader was needed.
When Assanis does speak, many students suspect that it is not with his own voice. From speeches to emails to press statements, the words of the President often don’t come across as genuinely written by him. Instead, the canned platitudes in his emails and speeches come off as insincere. Perhaps this is because the last time President Assanis spoke from the heart, he used the opportunity to disparage Delawareans in front of the Joint Finance Committee of the Delaware Legislature.
To many students at this university, it feels as if Assanis only shows up when the school has public relations work to be done. The presidential philosophy seems to be “absent until necessary.” When have any of us ever seen Assanis under non-crisis circumstances, just walking around campus grabbing a coffee or chatting with students?
And when the president finally shows up, he’s often too present. The official university Instagram post addressing the anti-domestic violence vigil contained, among other photos, a glamour shot of Assanis and his wife, Eleni, gazing mournfully into the distance. To many students, the inclusion of this photo seemed unnecessary at best and insulting at worst. At an event like this, the focus should be on sexual assault victims, not on the president who doesn’t bother to listen to student concerns in the first place.
The fact that Assanis is paid incredibly well while the students he is supposed to serve often struggle to pay tuition exacerbates feelings of distance between the student body and administration. If the president is going to be raking in at least $800,000 in salary before bonuses, the least he could do is interact with and listen to students. Assanis’ absence means that in general, the student body is suspicious of him and his presence whenever he does decide to show up to events. Further, if a student did want to try to contact Assanis, there are no easy avenues of communication through which they can reach him.
At the end of the day, the university is a business and President Assanis is its CEO. He doesn’t need to interact with students in order to please donors; all he has to do is take our money. But maybe it’s time to start expecting more from our president, and really start asking; where is Dennis Assanis?
The Review’s weekly editorials are written to reflect the majority opinion of The Review’s staff. This week’s editorial was written by Kiara Cronin, senior news reporter. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.