Nebraska opposes more privacy in executive searches

Nebraska opposes more privacy in executive searches

Michael Bragg

It’s not often enough that we get to say this, but transparency just got a win.

Legislators in Nebraska shot down a bill that would have limited executive searches to only making the finalist public, according to the Student Press Law Center. The bill was introduced shortly after the University of Nebraska system President James Milliken announced in January he was leaving for another job.

If Legislative Bill 1018 had passed, searches for top job positions at the University of Nebraska would have been closed to the public until a finalist was picked. Current law in Nebraska requires four final candidates to be made public, according to the SPLC.

Supporters of the bill, such as Howard Hawks, chairman of the University of Nebraska Board of Regents, claimed LB 1018 would have attracted more candidates to the position, given the increased confidentiality of the search process.

Sorry, but transparency in executive searches for publicly-funded positions should always overpower the notion of confidentiality.

Organizations such as the The Daily Nebraskan and the Nebraska Press Association rightly opposed the idea of such legislation. The student newspaper ran an editorial against the bill, and the press association dismissed the idea that a private search would hinder the best applicants for the job.

Sound familiar?

Appalachian State University’s search for the next chancellor hasn’t even been nearly as transparent as the restrictions proposed in Nebraska. The search committee has not and will not share the names of the final three candidates.

Sorry, two candidates, one of them decided to take a job elsewhere.

As The Appalachian has covered the closed nature of the chancellor search with news articles and a page-one editorial, we’ve heard some concerns that confidential searches are better. Like Hawks, others have argued that the best candidates won’t want an open search out of fear they might risk their job or concern those they work with that find out they may leave for another position.

But at a public institution, it makes absolutely no sense why the search wouldn’t at the very least open to the faculty, staff, students and community when the final candidates have been selected. A search committee won’t know who the best fit for the job is unless they have true interaction with members of the university, not with surveys and one-way forums.

Thank you, Nebraska legislators, for stepping up and doing the right thing. I just wish there was a group at Appalachian who had considered doing things similarly.

Michael Bragg, a senior journalism and public relations major from Lillington, is the editor-in-chief.