Thursday, October 9, 2014

Here's What a Provost Search Looks Like at Another University

Here is an internal e-mail from an Illinois school with an on-going Provost search. I have removed the names and identifying information from the communication, but there is still enough left to enable a comparison between these transparent search procedures and the opaque and secretive administrative search practices at Chicago State.

Of course, the search considerations are entirely different at the other Illinois school. Rather than a desire to shoehorn one of its president’s cronies into a position for which she is spectacularly unqualified, this institution seems intent on finding the best possible person for the job. This other school apparently feels no need to rig a search process by hiring a search firm whose previous effort yielded questionable results; no need to waste the time of other potential candidates who are unknowingly participating in a sham search whose final result is pre-determined. The other university also apparently feels no need to consider for the position of Provost someone whose “academic” credentials include a plagiarized dissertation.

In contrast, our president wastes the time of his staff and faculty on searches that will never produce a successful applicant (see the repeated and seemingly endless searches for the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences as an example) because there are no candidates with similarly empty academic résumés. Fortunately for Chicago State’s President, the current Interim Provost also has an academic record devoid of accomplishments. To be clear, neither our President nor our Interim Provost would be eligible for tenure at Chicago State University.

As we look at the “Provost Search Update” from the other school, we should be mindful of the administrative hiring practices that obtain at Chicago State. Here are the requirements and qualifications enumerated in Chicago State’s recent job announcement for Provost: “driving new initiatives to create a student-centered and ‘student-first’ (you have to love that kind of meaningless jargon) supportive and nurturing learning environment.” Additionally, Chicago State’s Provost will be expected to “[lead] the university to meet its goal of increasing enrollment and graduation rates.” To qualify for the Provost’s position at Chicago State, it is only necessary to hold “an earned terminal degree,” and to possess “a level of administrative experience that will add value to CSU’s continuous efforts to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of the institution’s human, fiscal and technological resources required by its academic and co-curricular programs.” You will note the absence of any reference to scholarly achievements. Did we get any applications from managers at WalMart? What does any of that bullshit mean?

Comparing the other institution’s requirements and qualifications we find its boilerplate to be slightly different: “the provost will strengthen academic quality, teaching excellence, scholarly research, service, and diversity.” The requirements for this school’s chief academic position “include a terminal degree, significant senior managerial experience in higher education,” and the criteria that would eliminate both Wayne Watson and Angela Henderson from serious consideration: “a notable record of scholarly contributions and teaching.”

Compare that straightforward requirement with Chicago State's "minimum qualification" of "significant experience in, and appreciation for, research and service activities in a higher education setting." I wonder how long someone labored over that language before deciding that it would be adequate to prevent from being eliminated for consideration someone with no scholarly activity? And guess who gets to define "significant experience in . . . research . . . activities"?

Looking at the search procedures, we see the obvious differences between the search at this school and what we know to be the search practices at Chicago State. The other school apparently sees no reason to cloak their search in secrecy. For example, the communication lists the search committee members. They include: 5 members of the Board of Trustees; a group of 4 Faculty members, comprising three full professors and one associate professor and including the President of the school’s Faculty Council; two staff members; one Dean; one administrator representing the President’s Office; one administrator representing the Academic Affairs Office and one administrator representing Human Resources. The memorandum also identifies the external search firm, delineates its previous successes and highlights the former academic experience of one of its consultants. At this early point in the search, the position has already attracted “over 30 completed applications” with an additional 140 potential candidates. The search update also encourages “all of you to send in names of potential candidates.” Given the scope of this search, the final pool of candidates is likely to be somewhat larger than the pool created by the Hollins Group for the recent Chicago State Provost search.

Finally, the update clearly defines the trajectory of the search and promises that the level of clarity already established in the process will continue. Sounds just like a Chicago State search.


  1. I have always wondered how little Miss Angie feels when she has to meet with the other, real provosts from the other Illinois public universities. It must be painful to sit there, dressed for success, while knowing all the time that everyone else in the room knows they belong and she does not. She can never forget that everyone there knows she is a plagiarizer, and a poseur. Must make for fun meeting days.

    1. How can we have spent $100,000 on another bogus Hollins Group search firm search and still not have a permanent provost? When the voters of ILL realize how much money this administration is wasting in a series of bogus searches and payouts to people who have sued our president/university maybe something will be done to put this place right. $100,000 sure could have helped improve classroom technology in our woefully underfunded teaching buildings. Maybe that is "chump change" to the administration, but not to a lot of us. And every time we sit on one of these go-nowhere searches it is time spent away from teaching or research. Let's see--$3-5 million to Crowley, $100,000 to the Hollins Group, does anyone know the tally of other lawsuit payouts for wrongful firing? UPI take note in the contract negotiations--CSU apparently has lots of money to throw around!