On February 18, 2015, Nikki Zollar, Chicago State University Trustee and Chair of the incipient Presidential Search Committee sent a memorandum to Faculty Senate President Beverly detailing the procedure for selection of faculty for the upcoming presidential search. Zollar "invites" the Faculty Senate to provide her a list of "nominees" (at least 5 [five]), from which someone--ostensibly Zollar or Zollar in concert with other Search Committee members--will choose 2 (two). In addition, three other faculty committee members will be chosen by someone unspecified. Zollar's memorandum insists that the Faculty Senate provide these names by Wednesday, February 25, 2015. In a search that simply must be transparent and above-board, Zollar's various conditions represent a somewhat inauspicious beginning.
In the 2008-09 presidential search, faculty committee members emerged from a democratic election held in each college. The six faculty chosen by their peers to serve on the committee came from each one of the university's four colleges, the library and I believe, the Counseling Center. In sum, faculty from all the university's academic units had at least a voice in the process. This selection procedure stands in stark contrast to the recent top-down directions from the current Search Committee Chair.
The members of the Chicago State Faculty Senate discussed this issue over the weekend and came to the consensus that we should draft an open letter to Zollar detailing our objections to a process in which the majority of the "faculty" representatives will be chosen by someone other than the faculty itself. Even the Faculty Senate's "nominees" would be screened for suitability based on some secret criteria. Remarkably, Zollar's memorandum specifically excludes the incumbent Faculty Senate President from service on this vital committee.
Speaking for myself, Zollar's memorandum does nothing to allay my fears that this search already has a pre-selected candidate. Recent "nationwide" searches conducted by the Chicago State Board of Trustees do not offer much reason for optimism--we have spent lots of money only to wind up with candidates whose qualifications are simply inadequate. Frankly, this search appears to begin by following a familiar script. Given the problems we have experienced over the past several years, I find it unimaginable that anyone wants to see a reprise of the kind of contention that this campus experienced in 2008-09.
Ultimately, I believe that Zollar's response to our letter will clarify the intention of Chicago State's Board. I think that if the Board addresses our concerns with a heavy-handed "my way or the highway" pronouncement that our university can expect another divisive and unproductive search. The Faculty Senate is willing to work with other members of the university community to insure the viability of the search process. We believe more than sufficient time exists to create a process that will meet with the approval of all the interested constituencies. How the Board feels about the search we will soon discover. Here are the two pieces of correspondence: