As a Canisius alum, I am very disappointed to hear about the current state of affairs at alma mater.
Canisius is in this position due to a lack of leadership from Canisius’ first lay president in its 150-year history. The situation isn’t new. This crisis started with the 2008/2009 Great Recession, accelerated with the student debt crisis, and really came to a head when COVID-19 reared its head during the Spring 2020 Semester.
Hurley isn’t thinking strategically, he’s thinking tactically. As a Technical Product Manager, I use the skills I learned as a History major at Canisius every day. I am constantly thinking about my product.
What attributes of my product are most important to my customers/stakeholders? Where should we be great? Where should we choose to be bad?
It’s clear to me that in 10 years he’s been President, Hurley hasn’t done this hard evaluation. What attributes are important to students, parents, and prospective employers?
Prospective students and parents are looking for quality amenities. Are the housing and dining options on par with similar-sized institutions? Will I be able to graduate with no/minimal debt? Does it offer a variety of degree options? Will I be just a number or will my professors know my name? Is Buffalo a good place to spend four years of my life?
Prospective employers are looking for people who think critically, communicate well both verbally and in writing, and who have leadership skills.Where should Canisius be great? They can point to a long tradition of developing the next generation of leaders not just in Buffalo, but nationwide. How is this?
By developing the cura personalis. Canisius should be reaching out to alums to see how they are applying their Canisius education in their personal and professional lives today. Work directly with Buffalo-area employers to see why they like hiring Canisius graduates.
Where should Canisius be bad? Canisius is not a trade school. They will never be the low-cost option. While you learn skills and tools that help you later in life, creating these “job ready” programs do not fit in with Canisius’ Jesuit identity or mission. There are better, less expensive options in the marketplace already.
When I was a freshman, I took Professor of Political Science Peter Galie’s Western Political Tradition class. He told us you don’t get a bachelor’s degree to learn a trade and he was right. There are either trade schools or graduate schools that will help there. It has stuck with me for nearly 30 years.
Here’s the rub – Hurley has Canisius on a trajectory to be a trade school. Why would I pay to go to Canisius when I can go to Buffalo State College for a lot less money?
All told, the College has had to suffer with Hurley’s lack of strategy and inability to adjust to changing market conditions.
Pandemic or not, it’s time for the Board of Trustees to make the difficult decision – either position the College for future success or make a leadership change.
Ken Kraft ’95, Former Griffin News Editor, Managing Editor, and Editor-in-Chief