A college president's letter to Santa

Dear Santa,

If we higher-education presidents ever needed to ask you for support -- something we're used to doing anyway with alumni and friends of our institutions -- it is certainly this Christmas season.

First and foremost, we campus CEO's have been very good this year. We have tried to keep tuition increases reasonable, grow our endowments, construct energy-efficient facilities and create scholarships to maintain affordability and access to higher education. Here in Hampton Roads, we have offered a rich menu of concerts, productions, exhibits, athletic events and much more for the public we serve, and we have done more than our share in being a valued engine of the local and regional economy.

We've listened to our boards, visiting committees, advisory councils, accreditors, legislators, alumni, parents, faculty and staff. Most importantly, we have been sensitive to our millennial students, their causes and concerns, their constant use of technology, their expectations of having a job upon graduation, their complaints about food services, room temperatures, course schedules, tough-grading professors, lack of playing time on the field or court -- you name it.

In short, we've tried to please everybody. If you think you're pulled in multiple directions, Santa, you should try running a college or university.

Now for our list. As you know, we've elected a rather non-conventional president of our nation, and although it's too early to tell what the long-range impact of his new administration will be on our campuses, our wish list is pretty extensive already.

First of all, please leave affordability and accessibility under the trees of those who aspire to a college education. Although the scholarships we provide are the gifts that keep on giving, we hope you will also guide those in Washington who will be making decisions about student loans and other federal assistance, repayment of loans, and federally funded student work-study and similar programs.

Second, we'd like to have a commitment to a clean environment -- not a reversal of progress made. You can probably see the polar ice melting from your workshop at the North Pole. Here in Hampton Roads, we have some serious concerns about coastal sea-level rise. Give those in charge the wisdom and will to make sound choices for the long-term health of our environment and natural resources.

Third, please give the new administration the ability to bring jobs to Coastal Virginia. Let's have no further sequestration and loss of military positions; rather, give us a strong Virginia economy that derives from defense, yes, but also from many diversified opportunities. On Christmas morning, it would be nice to unwrap favorable financial trends that will keep tuition affordable, costs stable and endowments robust.

Fourth -- and this is very important, Santa -- give us a break from the hateful rhetoric, lies and half-truths, fake news, prejudicial saber-rattling and outlandish claims and justifications that have swept right on through the holidays like a deadly case of flu. Our country is better than that, we deserve more than to be pandered to, and we work best when we work together, united and not divided. Our students have some real concerns about the future that my fellow presidents and I are trying to address. We need to provide the reassurance they seek and deserve.

Finally, give us the gift of sound decisions, reliable information and consistent expectations. It might be a stretch even for you, Santa, but fill our officials' stockings with integrity and inspired leadership. Give us hope. Perhaps more so than in recent memory, we badly need something positive to believe in.

Well, that should do it for this year, Santa. We've done as much as we can on our own. Thank you for listening.

Oh, and don't land your sleigh too hard on the tops of our campus buildings. It's hard to find alumni who will underwrite roof work.

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Dr. Scott D. Miller is President of Virginia Wesleyan College in Norfolk/Virginia Beach. Previously, Dr. Miller served as President at Bethany College in West Virginia (2007-15), Wesley College in Delaware (1997-2007) and Lincoln Memorial University in Tennessee (1991-97).

He wrote this for the December 21 issue of The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, VA)