EMU in the CHE for all the wrong reasons, again: More secret presidential search follies

The latest news in the EMU presidential search process is it was one of the topics in this article from The Chronicle of Higher Education, “In Search for College Chiefs, Faculty Input Can Feel Like a Mere Formality.” It’s behind the paywall, but let’s just say I “have my ways” and I did read it.

First off, the best observation in this CHE piece is not in the article itself but in the first comment I read, one signed by James H. Finkelstein. To paraphrase: the problem with what the EMU Board of Regents is doing (along with a lot of other boards since this article is about this trend at lots of other schools) isn’t that it’s a confidential search; it’s a secret search. A confidential search would be one where there’s no public information about the search leading up to the finalists, but once everyone knows who the top three or four candidates are, there is some kind of public “presentation” of these finalists to the university community. A secret search is one where there’s no public information at all, not about candidates who applied, about finalists, ad nothing about the final interview process. Someone just opens a door one day, introduces the new president, and that’s that.

Now, I don’t think anyone has a problem with a confidential search. If you are a mucky-muck provost or president or dean or whatever and you are looking to make the jump to president at a place like EMU, you don’t to give your current employer the impression that you’re on the job market. Everyone knows that; heck, it’s the same thing for most faculty looking to move from one job to another. But by the time the search is down to finalists, I think it’s fair to say there isn’t much need for confidentiality.

Look, we’re not picking a pope; we’re trying to hire the president of a public institution that involves tens of thousands of alumni, students, staff, faculty, and administrators who all deserve to have at least some role in the process. And frankly, I’m suspicious of a finalist who doesn’t want contact with people at the university and beyond the hiring committee before taking the job.

Second, I think this article does a pretty shitty job characterizing Martin’s presidency and departure. A quote:

The search at Eastern Michigan comes on the heels of two presidencies that ended in controversy. Susan W. Martin, who resigned in July, had been reprimanded by the board for having an “inappropriate” alcohol-fueled exchange at a public event. Her predecessor, John A. Fallon III, was fired, in 2007, amid outcry over the university’s bungled response to a student murder.

There is a lot of pressure to get this one right, and regents say a closed search provides the best chance of that.

This is a classic example of a journalist bending reality to fit the argument they want to make: that is, the last two presidents were so controversial that now the board has to do a secret search to “get this one right.” So much for the objectivity of journalism, right?

Say what you will about Martin’s presidency (I thought she was pretty good, certainly the best president I’ve dealt with at EMU) and you can even say what you want about the board reprimand over some kind of drunken argument (though I think that was mostly a bogus hack job promoted by some former board members who wanted her out). But there was zero connection between Martin stepping down as president and this reprimand, none, and to suggest that there was a connection– that is, that this reprimand is what lead to Martin resigning in disgrace– is slimy.

They get Fallon about right though.

Third, I hope that the Faculty Senate does take search chair/BoR member Michelle Crumm up on her offer to add faculty to the committee. As I wrote about before, I think simply walking away from the search entirely is a dumb and pointless protest. In my view, faculty could make a lot more difference by participating in the search committee and, simultaneously, advocating for at least some openness in the process.  And as Crumm points out, two more faculty on the committee would mean three out of the twelve members of the committee would be faculty. That’s a hell of a lot better than none, even if the search remains secret.


Hey EMU-AAUP & Faculty Senate: Quitting the Presidential Search Committee is a bad idea

A little less than a month ago, I wrote here about the problems of the EMU presidential search being conducted by the Board of Regents essentially in secret: that is, instead of bringing in candidates for a public vetting process of one sort or another, the search committee is going to do their work and at some point, they’re going to hire someone and that will be that. I think that’s a bad idea for all kinds of different reasons and my take is that the committee ought to bring in finalists to do some public presentations. They could easily do that because by the time they’re down to the three or four people they might want to hire, the cat is out of the bag about who is applying for the job for everyone. As far as I can tell, this could still happen but it’s not likely.

Anyway, there have been a couple of articles as of late in mLive about all this. Yesterday there was “Faculty tension mounts as EMU’s private presidential search moves forward.” And then this morning, it appears that the EMU-AAUP and the Faculty Senate have “doubled-down” on being tense and/or mad about the search process, as reported here, “EMU faculty members may abort advisory roles if presidential search kept private.” Here’s a quote:

Citing a lack of shared governance over the Board of Regents decision to conduct a confidential, private search, Howard Bunsis, the treasurer and spokesman for the EMU Chapter of the American Association of University Professors, said the school’s all-union council voted to pull its lone representative from the advisory committee.

Judith Kullberg, a political science professor and the vice president of the faculty senate, also said the faculty senate would vote to remove its representative on the advisory committee if the board didn’t change the process to give faculty members the opportunity to vet potential presidential candidates.

She added that the faculty would not add two additional members to the advisory committee, which board chair Michelle Crumm suggested as a solution to the faculty’s complaints about its lack of representation in the presidential selection process.

That’s dumb.

I understand and even agree with Bunsis’ and Kullberg’s basic point about faculty governance, and like I’ve already said, I think they should at least bring the finalists to campus not only for the sake of the EMU community but for the sake of the candidates. I think we owe these people a little more information about what they are getting themselves into, and I don’t see how any of the potential presidents could get much insight about EMU if they only encounter people on the search committee.

Unless the plan is to hire Schatzel, though if that were the case, it seems to me they could have just skipped the search process.

But one thing is for sure: for the faculty to take what input they might have in the process now– and again, the board chair wants to put more faculty on the committee, which would indeed give faculty more input into the process– and throw it away is just dumb. It’s a pouty “I’m going to take my ball and go home” kind of ploy that won’t work because– surprise surprise– it ain’t the faculty’s ball to take home.

So I hope they rethink this. Go ahead and keep voicing opposition to the closed search process and keep pointing out that faculty ought to have more of a role here, I have no problem with that. But giving up the seats on the committee as a protest is just plain dumb.

Recapping the Federica Web Learning International MOOC Conference & Some Italy Sidetrips

Last week, I was in Naples and Capri, Italy to attend the Federica Web Learning International MOOC Conference. My brief talk/presentation/position statement (everyone just gave small talks) was more or less called “A Small View of MOOCs: A Limited Look at the Recent Past and Likely Future of MOOCs at the Edges of Higher Education in the United States,” and that link takes you to a Google Doc version of my talk– the slides and the script I more or less followed. Here are links to my tourism pictures of Naples, Anacapri, and Pompeii on Flickr.

After the break, I go into way more detail than necessary about the conference and the trip. Read on if you’re interested, though a lot of it is really me writing/thinking out loud for myself, which is often the case on my blog, right?

Continue reading “Recapping the Federica Web Learning International MOOC Conference & Some Italy Sidetrips”