by Rosalie Murphy
The University of Akron will soon begin searching for a new president.
The search won’t be entirely in the hands of the Board of Trustees, as has been the case in the past. But the public will not know who the university is considering until the selection has been made.
At a Wednesday meeting, the UA Board of Trustees agreed to modify university rules in several key ways. First, they added six people to the search committee, including current faculty, staff or students. And second, they decided to require those new participants to sign pledges of confidentiality. Those representatives won’t be allowed to share information about the search process with other faculty, staff or students, or with the public at large.
The early stages of presidential searches have traditionally been very private. But then the Board of Trustees has invited several finalists to campus, at which time students, faculty, staff and the public can give input.
The new process will expand the size of the search committee, but no names will be shared until the president has been chosen. Candidates for the president’s job will no longer be required to visit campus, a university spokesperson said.
The Akron chapter of the American Association of University Professors, which has raised doubts about recent administrative moves like the amount of money the university is spending on the esports program, endorsed the plan in a video last week.
“Our chapter was, at first, a little bit wary of this proposal, but after talking to the various university representatives, we feel quite comfortable with it,” acting president Julie Cajigas says in the video.
Previously, Cajigas says, a handful of faculty members were able to meet with the selection committee to “give perspective” on finalist candidates. They were not involved in the earlier stages of the search. But in this new process, after the search firm is chosen, Cajigas says the three faculty members on the search committee will have access to all materials and meetings throughout.
“We are heartened that the board came to us and asked for these changes, rather than simply allowing us to continue with our contract and have a very limited participation at the end of a closed search, which could’ve been a possibility,” Cajigas says in her statement.
The search committee will include UA’s nine trustees, who are appointed to nine-year terms by the governor’s office. (Eight of the current trustees were appointed under Gov. John Kasich.) It will also include two student trustees and two advisory trustees, who attend board meetings but do not have votes on most board matters.
Additionally, the search committee will include the leaders of:
- The University Council, which is currently headed by a faculty member
- The Akron AAUP
- The Faculty Senate
- The Staff Employee Advisory Committee, which includes non-bargaining staff employees
- The Contract Professional Advisory Committee, which includes contract employees
- Undergraduate Student Government
“I believe the revision proposed today will produce a process that will help attract the widest range of high-quality candidates for the presidency while involving the campus community at an earlier stage and in more meaningful ways,” said board president Joe Gingo at Wednesday’s meeting.
UA plans to hire a search firm to identify and recruit candidates for president. This is common practice, although it can lead to even greater secrecy.
In 2014, after Kent State University selected Beverly Warren as its president, the Beacon Journal reported that search firm Storbeck Pimentel refused to disclose information about their process.
UA has not yet hired a search firm, a spokesperson confirmed Wednesday.
Rosalie Murphy is the Editor-in-Chief of The Devil Strip. Photo by Shane Wynn via Akronstock.
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