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EMU faculty unhappy with university's presidential search process

Oct 13, 2015

Eastern Michigan University
Credit F. Delventhal / flickr creative commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Professors at Eastern Michigan University want a bigger say and more openness in the selection of the university's next president.

In an October 7 letter, the EMU Faculty Senate urged the EMU Board of Regents to amend the search process to give the faculty a primary role and to hold open public forums for the final candidates. 

The letter asks the regents to consider a range of options suggested by the American Association of University Professors to ensure a central role for faculty in presidential searches.

These options include, among others, a joint search committee composed of equal numbers of board members and faculty; joint agreement on the procedures and voting rules of the search; and appointment of a president only from those candidates acceptable to the faculty representatives on the search or advisory committees.

The original plan for the presidential search process was to appoint only one faculty representative to the search advisory committee. In response to Faculty Senate concerns, "the Regents have offered to appoint two more," said Sandy Norton, President of EMU's Faculty Senate. "The Senate doesn't think that's adequate."

The additional appointments would give faculty three representatives on the 12-member Presidential Search Advisory Committee.

In a written statement on October 12 announcing the additional faculty representatives, Regent Michelle Crumm said the Presidential Search Advisory Committee will be able to see every resume, make recommendations on candidates that deserve a closer look, and interview finalists before recommending a handful of candidates to the Board of Regents, which makes the final decision. Crumm is chair of both the Presidential Search Committee, made up of regents only, and the Presidential Search Advisory Committee. 

The October 7 Faculty Senate letter also called for  holding public forums for the finalists, saying they would enhance the likelihood of a new president's enjoying the broad support of the entire university community.  

"At least have the finalists come on campus and meet with faculty and students," said Norton.  

Regent Crumm did not address the open forum issue in her October 12 response, although in an earlier statement she said having a confidential search process attracts a more qualified applicant pool.

But Norton said having a closed selection process at the finalist stage is ill-advised.

"I can understand the arguments about the candidate pool being difficult if the whole thing is wide open," said Norton. "But I do think it's unreasonable for a public university to expect people to accept the regents simply producing a new president."