News: CJ Exclusives

Faculty Calls for Open Search

UNC officials say that openness harm the search for campus leaders

The executive committee of the Faculty Senate of North Carolina State University has joined the chorus in calling for an open chancellor search. Students, alumni, media organizations, and well-wishers have all sought an open search process.

Officials with UNC and UNC President Molly Broad have always argued that openness has the potential to harm those whose candidacy becomes known. Members of the search committee at N.C. State have signed confidentiality agreements to keep the public from learning anything other than their selection’s name.

According to The News & Observer of Raleigh on July 2, faculty Chairman Dennis Daley sent a memo to the search committee and other faculty senators arguing for an open process on the ground that openness would allow the campus community to get to know the candidates and make the process more legitimate. The faculty Senate wants the search committees’ finalists to visit the campus for interviews.

In 1998, when departing Chancellor Marye Anne Fox was chosen to lead N.C. State, the selection committee announced the three finalists’ names just one day before announcing the selection of Fox. That was after the selection committee violated the state’s open-meetings law by hiring a search firm in secret.

Other universities, including other UNC schools, have followed the open route in selecting chancellors. Appalachian State allowed public questioning of its three finalists this spring. The names of East Carolina’s finalists were leaked to the press, causing one to drop out.

University of Tennessee chose a new system president after a highly visible, open search. After scandals ousted the system’s last two presidents within two years, UT officials thought it was important to restore public trust in the process, so they opted for openness. The committee selected University of Connecticut Provost John D. Peterson after a large panel of alumni, faculty, students, trustees, and staff sorted through applicants’ resumes, and they broadcast over the Internet the interviews with the six finalists.

“The more open the process was, the better, as far as I was concerned,” Peterson told The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Appalachian’s open process “went off without a hitch” and “gave us a second look at the candidates and how they interacted with each group,” search committee member and former Faculty Senate Chairman Paul Gates told the N&O. Gates said Appalachian’s open process pleased the selection committee, instilled public confidence in the selection, and resulted in a president whose view of openness is the more open, the better.

Jon Sanders is assistant editor of Carolina Journal.