EMU News: When should concern turn to panic with the presidential search?

Loyal readers of EMUTalk.org will note that that site is no longer: the account has officially expired, though I still own the domain name and it is redirecting now to emutalkarchive.wordpress.com. It’s a free wordpress install that is a complete archive of the site, nine years worth of posts and comments.  And I suppose it could become a “real site” again, if need-be.

But as I always said, one of the main reasons why I hung it up at EMUTalk.org is I felt like it was all my voice and I already have a blog, one where I intend to keep posting the kinds of things I used to post on EMUTalk.org. Which brings me to my point, the EMU presidential search.

EMU-AAUP President Susan Moeller sent around an email this morning with the subject line “EMU Presidential Search to be done in SECRET!” It sounds the alarm about the search process for a new president at EMU. You can read the whole thing after the jump, but here’s how she starts in her opening paragraph:

On Monday, September 14, 2015, Regent Crumm sent an email to the campus community announcing that the search for the new EMU President will be a closed one.  This means that the entire President search will be done in secret.  We will NEVER know who the candidates are – we will only know who gets the job in the end.

And then it kind of goes on from there.

But the added concern/panic factor is the EMU Board of Regents is using Parker Executive Search to find candidates, the same head hunter firm that the University of Iowa recently used in its hiring of a new president. And my alma mater has ended up hiring J. Bruce Harreld, a guy with no academic leadership experience, though he apparently knows a lot about fast food. In other words, the worry is we’re going to get stuck with a similar kind of business wonk, and not a particularly distinguished business wonk at that.

I’m of two minds about all this.

On the one hand, the EMU-AAUP has a way of leaping to conclusions, and I don’t think we should panic quite yet. Presidential searches are never “open” affairs. When EMU hired Susan Martin, there was a process where an executive head hunting firm vetted candidates and somehow we ended up with four BoR approved finalists (I can’t remember how they did that). Then the candidates all gave presentations and there was opportunity for faculty, staff, students, alumni, etc., to give input. But it was just input; at the end of the day, the Board of Regents hires the president.

As Moeller points out in her letter, the University of Michigan hired its current president completely in secret, which is the process I think they’ve always had. In other words, the board is saying we’re just following “standard practice.” Don’t get me wrong, I think the BoR should seek input from the campus community. But to me, Moeller’s argument against the way they did it at Michigan, that– “please note that EMU is not the University of Michigan”– isn’t persuasive.

As for Parker Executive Search: this is a company that does a lot of these kinds of searches, and the real problem with the sham hire the University of Iowa did for its president is the state of Iowa. It’s a long story, but all accounts suggest a political hack job that has a lot more to do with the (Republican) Governor and (Republican) chair of the state board of regents and their dislike of the University of Iowa and the Democratic voters in the county where the University is located. Plus there’s a complicated scheme in the works in the state to redistribute some of the money that U of Iowa brings in now to the other two state universities. In other words, the politics here in Michigan generally and at EMU in particular are very different.

On the other hand, this does have a whiff of something that could go bad fairly quickly.

I think one of the reasons why Susan Martin got off to a good start as president were the candidate forums brought the campus together and gave folks at least the impression that the board was listening to them. Skipping that process entirely could be bad for everyone, including both the Board of Regents, the search committee, and whoever it is they decide to hire. I mean, that’s why Iowa is getting such bad press right now; does EMU (and the Parker firm for that matter) really want to have similarly bad press?

So I guess I want to hear a little more from the powers that be about how the search is going to happen before I panic and/or send out emails WITH LOTS OF CAPITALS! But I think everyone agrees no one who cares about EMU ought to wait too long.

Here’s Moeller’s email:

Dear EMU Faculty:

On Monday, September 14, 2015, Regent Crumm sent an email to the campus community announcing that the search for the new EMU President will be a closed one.  This means that the entire President search will be done in secret.  We will NEVER know who the candidates are – we will only know who gets the job in the end.

The Regents are not interested in our input.  The listening sessions they are offering the campus community are for us to tell them what traits we want in a President.  They are not for us to give input of the candidates they are interviewing for the position.  A search process done in secret is a clear violation of the basic AAUP principle of shared governance.  A process where faculty and student do not have an opportunity to at least give input on the candidates is not the manner in which universities operate.  In fact, the process outlined by Regent Crumm is the way that private, for-profit businesses operate.

Though Regent Crumm claims that this process was implemented at the University of Michigan, please note that EMU is not the University of Michigan.  Further, the Regents at the University of Michigan must face the voters; the Regents at EMU are simply appointed by the Governor, with no input from the public.

The Regents claim that EMU will not get any good candidates for the position if the search is open.  In addition they are taking the advice of their executive search firm – Parker Executive Search.  There is a lot of press about this search firm – you can see some of the articles below.   Maybe they want the search to be closed so that resumes do not have to be vetted carefully:

http://www.press-citizen.com/story/news/education/university-of-iowa/2015/09/14/isu-uni-faculty-groups-back-ui-no-confidence-votes/72255098/

http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/college/2015/08/23/minnesota-athletics-norwood-teague-parker-executive-search/32240083/

http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/ncaaf/2013/06/06/parker-executive-search-ncaa-rutgers/2398487/

http://www.press-citizen.com/story/news/2015/09/02/criticism-abounds-ui-presidential-search/71588478/

Regent Crumm will be attending the Faculty Senate today to update the faculty on the process of the search.  Perhaps our faculty representatives should tell her that we believe in shared governance at EMU.  In fact, the EMU administration and EMU-AAUP sign a contract which defines how shared governance works at EMU.  Obviously the Regents so not understand that universities are not businesses, and they cannot run without the principle of shared governance.  If the faculty do not work with the new President, he or she will not be successful.

At the University of Iowa, the new President was recruited by the Parker search firm, and the faculty would not award tenure to the new President.  Iowa faculty are currently discussing organizing their faculty with the AAUP.  Why would the EMU Regents want to have a new President who is not interested in meeting the campus community with whom he/she will work?  It is a recipe for disaster.

Please contact your Faculty Senate representative and let him/her know your views regarding this issue as soon as possible.

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