There was a cautious optimism last year at this time across campus when CSU began the search for a new president. The belief at that time was that the selection process would involve constituencies across campus from whom the Board of Trustees truly wanted to hear. Sources close to the search, however, have related stories that describe the deflation of that initial hope over the summer and fall as the meetings on the presidential search progressed. From the very start, apparently, the search committee of the Board of Trustees made it clear that they would do the hiring and that the advisory committee (made up of faculty, staff, and administrators, including a student representative) was not going to be anything but, well, “advisory,” in the narrowest sense of the word. The advisory committee would not vote, would not have a say in who was chosen for a short list and would not be present for interviews of the final five candidates. This proscription of the advisory committee was repeated periodically in the course of this search.
So, anyone who read the statement issued on Tuesday, “the search committee, with input from the 16-member presidential search advisory committee, reviewed more than 30 applications for the position” should disabuse themselves that this process was shared. The Board of Trustees alone has made the decision to bring in Drs. Wayne Watson and Carol Adams not with, but in spite of, the advisory committee.
The advisory search committee was not permitted to review the portfolios of those 30+ candidates, but did review the chosen twelve candidates. The advisory committee had less than a week to make extensive comments on paper evaluating the candidates. The plan was to discuss those candidates at the next search committee meeting. Most of the advisory members did fill out the forms which were detailed and took a long time to complete. Yet no discussion between the Board of Trustees and the advisory search committee about the twelve candidates ever took place. On the day of that meeting, in what could only be called a parliamentary technicality, Trustee Tolliver moved the meeting into executive session before any discussion could take place. The Senate-appointed advisory search committee was never part of a meaningful discussion as to who Chicago State University’s next president would be.
After a year-long national search, conducted by a local search firm, the two finalists are two very prominent and problematic individuals from Chicago. What began as an optimistic opportunity for the university to come together to improve the “culture of Chicago State,” has ended in farce. Cynicism about the choice, but more importantly, about the process, is what one is hearing now. The faculty in particular should watch very carefully over the next few weeks as the Trustee’s choices for President of CSU interview on campus. Maybe some meaningful participation of the entire university can still happen in this process, unfortunately, I’m afraid the die is cast, the fix is in.