Although some persons outside the academy may think search committees an uninteresting topic or even one unworthy of discussion, their importance in producing competent administrators and qualified faculty bears directly on the academic integrity of the institution. The best decisions about candidates for a particular position are critical to the successful operation of any university. I believe that the persons best situated to make those decisions are the members of the university community who work in the school’s most permanent positions—staff and faculty.
I will divide the “stakeholders” so often referred to in the public utterances of our leaders into two kinds of groups: 1) permanent employees, many of whom stay at Chicago State for decades; and 2) transient community members, those persons whose contact with the university is comparatively brief. In my estimation, staff and faculty are the only two members of that “permanent” group. Members of the Board of Trustees, Administrators and even students are a transient group of people who will typically spend a few years here then move on. Since staff and faculty are in a unique position relative to their knowledge of the university and are likely to have specific ideas about what makes a good administrator, it seems reasonable that any search committee for a top-level Chicago State administrative position should include a preponderance of people in those categories.
However, we are now confronted with what will be nothing more than another rigged search for a high-level administrative position at Chicago State; this time for the university’s president. Although the Board of Trustees has not yet announced the members of the Presidential Search Committee, all the signs of a fix are in place: First, of the 19 members of the Committee, there are only 5 faculty and 2 staff included. There will be as many administrators on the committee as faculty and there are as many members of the Board of Trustees and students on the committee as there are staff members.
Second, it seems apparent that the university administration, with Nikki Zollar (the same Nikki Zollar who, along with her company Triad Consulting, received nearly $600,000 in no-bid contracts from Wayne Watson while he was Chancellor at City Colleges) as their public face, will hand pick the faculty members who serve on the committee. As her February 18 memorandum made clear, the Faculty Senate was “invited” to submit a list of at least 5 names from which 2 “shall be selected.” There was no discussion of the selection process for the other 3 faculty positions. Doing the simple arithmetic results in the realization that Zollar and company will pick all 5 faculty who will participate in this farce.
Of course, as we saw in 2008-09, Chicago State’s Board gives not a whit about what the school’s faculty think. In fact, they have made it clear they really do not want to talk to us about anything. However, it is still necessary to create the impression of faculty participation in this kind of sham search, so it cannot really dispense with faculty representation on the committee. The trick is to find faculty who will be amenable to the desires of the Board and the Watson administration and who will not make the kind of fuss the Presidential Search Committee created in 2009. Because of their contingent employment status, non-tenured unit A and non-tenurable unit B faculty may be particularly susceptible to the administration’s demands to find the “right” candidate.
Third, to hedge its bets, the Board and administration plans to announce which search firm will be responsible for finding Chicago State’s next president. My money is on another appearance by the Hollins Group, a local search firm that seems to specialize in taking large sums of money to do “nationwide” searches only to find local academic non-entities and demonstrable incompetents to fill key university positions like president and provost. Frankly, any search firm chosen by this board will be suspect, but the Hollins Group has proven its worth in at least two previous high-profile sham searches and should be the logical recipient of another giveaway of taxpayer funds.
In summary, all these factors convince me that the incipient presidential search will be nothing more than a cynical exercise in installing another Watson crony as Chicago State’s President, with disastrous consequences for the university. This search is illegitimate and its progeny will likely complete the destruction of this school.
I would urge all faculty interested in what the Board’s search plans entail to attend the Board of Trustees meeting on Friday, March 6, 2015.