Keep College President Searches Quiet


Social media has forced upon us two things:  transparency and immediacy.

This is not always good.  Especially in the area of college/university presidential searches.  I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I’ve seen a couple presidential searches over the past few years.  One  was accepted as president at a larger university.  We all knew it before he returned to campus.

Another president went through the final interview process and we knew about it as the interview took place.

This is not fair to anyone.  Trying to better one’s self is a natural flow in the career world.  If the campus knows your president is interviewing somewhere, it compromises him or her in a lot of ways.

Some would argue that at public institutions, total transparency is needed for taxpayers.

I disagree.   There are no hard figures but I have a feeling a lot of presidents do not apply for other jobs  because of this justified fear of being outed.  That’s not fair to the current institution where the fit may not be right or fair to the interviewing institution where the match might be perfect.

If it’s a public institution it’s not fair to the taxpayer — the parent — who may not be getting a president who is best for the university and its unique needs.

I don’t think this is as big a problem for provosts, deans and even development professionals.  They’re expected to search for positions at larger institution or a college presidency.

It is a problem for a sitting president searching elsewhere.  It says, for whatever reason, the president is not happy with his or her position at your university.  Morale goes down among students, faculty, staff and alumni.  Fairly or not, the president, who has been a cheerleader/fundraiser/parent/leader figure, is instantly deflated to lame duck status.

Higher education has a lot of creaky spots in its body.  This is one area that could be brought into the 21st century.  Let searches for college presidents be discrete.  Students, faculty, staff and alumni can and should be represented.

But a presidential search can be done quietly, discretely and with some class.

Public searches have no place in our instant message age.

Everyone loses.

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2 responses to “Keep College President Searches Quiet

  1. Dennis,

    Please keep us updated (or provide a link to updates) on the search process at MU. I am an alumna (and am getting ready to send a daughter to MU), so I have a vested interest in seeing the university select a great candidate.

    • Elizabeth,
      We will have an interim president first, then a permanent one. but don’t worry. I’ve served under five administrations and the commitment to students from faculty and staff has never changed. That’s what MU is all about. But I will keep everyone posted both in our news page and here. Thanks so much for your interest.

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