Faculty, staff councils discuss fine points of presidential search process

'Sole finalist,' makeup of search committee examined at most recent meetings
By Staff

Possible revisions to the university's presidential search process inspired discussion at separate meetings last week of the Faculty Council and Staff Council, with some Boulder faculty expressing dissatisfaction with the depth of information provided in an advisory report.

Joe Rosse, chair of the Boulder Faculty Assembly, said the group's executive committee found the presidential search notebook to be "a pretty disappointing document."

"We were underwhelmed," said Rosse, adding the committee wanted to see summaries of the presidential search processes from a longer list of peer universities. The report includes descriptions of methods used at Texas, Missouri, North Carolina and Michigan.

The Boulder Faculty Assembly's executive committee also objects to the practice of naming a sole finalist during a presidential search, rather than publicly identifying multiple candidates for the job, Rosse said.

"Our concern is that, with a single candidate, there's no opportunity for anyone outside the search committee to have input," Rosse said after the Nov. 4 meeting.

Others pointed out apparent impracticality in naming more than one finalist for the president's post. R L Widmann, immediate past chair of the Faculty Council, said the council's Educational Policy and University Standards (EPUS) Committee is aware of examples of university presidential candidates who suffered in their current jobs after being announced publicly. "We're not in a position of wanting to ruin anyone's career," she said.

Should the presidential search process not be changed to allow for the public announcement of multiple candidates, Rosse said he would like to have "plenty of faculty on the search committee."

Widmann said it's important that the presidential search committee represent several constituencies, including faculty, staff, students and retired faculty and staff. But she cautioned against requesting the establishment of too large a body, which is appointed by the Board of Regents. "It was hard enough with 16 people on the search committee last time," she said, noting demands on members' time and the difficulty of scheduling meetings when so many people are needed.

However, at their Nov. 5 meeting, members of the Staff Council said there is value to a larger, broad-based committee. Under current procedures, the search committee includes one staff member, one student and one university alumni. The Board of Regents has the discretion to change the committee's size and composition.

But the Staff Council agreed a better representation of views and ideas would come from additional members. They suggested the search committee include one classified and one exempt staff member, and an undergraduate and graduate student along with an alumni member. Search procedures also should ensure a representative from each campus is on the committee.

The Board of Regents' Laws and Policies Committee plans discussion about the presidential search process at its Nov. 18 meeting. At the committee's recent meeting, Faculty Council, Staff Council and other governance groups were asked to provide recommendations in advance of the next meeting. Proposals will be reviewed and prioritized for consideration before the entire Board of Regents at its Feb. 10-11 meeting.

Regent Tom Lucero, chair of the Laws and Policies Committee, said he would wait until being presented with input from Staff Council and Faculty Council before commenting on the possibilities. He did, however, point to the challenges inherent in naming multiple finalists for the presidency.

"Having been on two of the chancellor search committees, I've seen that you just can't do it," Lucero said. "As you are interviewing individuals, if you ask, 'Would you be willing to be one of many finalists?', the answer is always no. If you have a requirement that two, three or four names be made public, you're going to limit the pool of individuals who are willing to apply."

In other business at the Nov. 4 Faculty Council meeting, E. Jill Pollock, senior associate vice president and chief human resources officer, discussed her review of the university's early retirement programs. Under consideration is a new addition to the faculty's phased retirement program:  an early retirement incentive, tied to immediate retirement on a date agreed upon by the faculty member and university administration. The incentive might be paid in a lump sum or over a period of time, and the amount would depend on what each campus can afford, Pollock said.