Saturday, September 5, 2015

This is what passes for transparency???

So in the spring the Board of Trustees trumpeted how the search process for the next president was going to be different. Now some months later, I can report that it is different just not in a way that has thus far served the university. For a group that has such limited knowledge of universities one would think they might ask subject matter experts within the university (faculty) how to do a search or use an exit strategy and leave the job to someone who might know something about this process and be willing to conduct it in a truly transparent way. Instead this Board blissfully dances the university closer to the edge of closure. 

The first failure was the composition of the search committee. With no senior faculty on the search committee the Board completely dismissed the literally centuries of corporate knowledge available and opted for less experienced faculty, one of whom literally has no skin in the game save to protect the incumbent's cronies. The communication to the campus community has been insufficient and less than timely. A memo dated June 17th, 2015 arrived by email on August 28th. That hardly seems transparent. The search firm is reported to have told search committee members that the search process was "confidential" and to not discuss it. That hardly seems transparent. Not mentioning applicants is absolutely reasonable, nee expected. But not talking about the process??? Two special board meetings were held over two days to conduct airport interviews at the O'Hare Hilton. While those meetings are critical to a search process those meetings literally bordered on violating the Open Meetings Act which requires meetings be held at a time and place that is convenient. A 7AM or 8AM start time is hardly convenient especially at O'Hare airport for members of the university community who might wish to attend. The latest insult to the campus community is the schedule for the candidates visiting the campus starting September 14th. The Board announced officially just before 5PM on the Friday prior to Labor Day who the finalists are and when each is scheduled to visit the university. In the world of politics and the 24 hour news cycle, scheduling a Friday afternoon release of information is usually done to deliver bad news and make that bad news go away over the weekend when fewer people watch the news. The university had the opportunity to have some positive press on Wednesday but chose to deliver it as bad news on Friday. I wonder if Board is about to make a mistake similar to the one made by the University of Iowa board which hired a president roundly condemned by the university community to satisfy some other, as yet undisclosed, agenda. 

Given the criticality of the selection of the next president, I am also dismayed that the Board was beaten to the punch on the announcement of the finalists. Yes, loyal readers, this blog published the names of the finalists two days prior to the Board making its official announcement. For an event of this magnitude that should never happen. (And I am glad we were able to inform you loyal readers)

Finally, the compressed time scheduled allows for limited interaction between applicants and the community. I guess I should be happy that faculty get 40 minutes to 'meet and greet', whatever that means. It's unclear whether questions can be asked or whether this is simply the peasants being able to gaze upon the future king. That there wasn't time for the UPI Chapter President and executive board, the Civil Service Council President and officers, the Faculty Senate President and executive committee or the Student Government Association officers to meet with each candidate is symptomatic of the ignorance of the Board in managing a presidential search process. As has been stated in this venue numerous times, "flawed processes lead to flawed outcomes." Unfortunately the Board has now placed each of the candidates in a more difficult position to get the buy in from faculty as it appears the process is and has been a sham.

This whole process gives me pause to wonder what is the real motivation of this Board. Are the aluminum foil hat wearing conspiracy theorists correct that CSU is being prepped for a hostile takeover and those in charge are there for that reason? I would certainly hope not but with the closure of programs like TRIO and another sham search it is hard to imagine another future for this institution.

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