Opinion: Chancellor search committee should not be private

Opinion: Chancellor search committee should not be private

Cory Spiers

The chancellor search committee voted to have a closed search for the university’s new chancellor Oct. 15, according to Appalachian State University News.

This means that students and faculty will not know who the new chancellor is until that individual is chosen by the UNC system, the Watauga Democrat reports.

Chairman Mike Steinback argues that closing the search is beneficial because the “confidential process is intended to improve the quality of the pool of potential candidates.”

It should be noted that an open search does not necessarily mean revealing all the candidates, but could be a way for the top three candidates whose names will be submitted to the system to meet with groups on campus.

Finding the best possible candidate is important, but there is no reason to believe that this could not be achieved with an open search while also providing needed transparency.

When the university last conducted a chancellor search a decade ago, an open process was allowed and things worked out.

Paul Gates, a current faculty senate member who argued for an open search during the last chancellor hearings, said he believes that an open search is beneficial because it allows “the campus community, including Faculty Senate and Staff Senate, to meet with dozens** of the people who could be chosen to lead.”

“[Closing off the search] starts the new chancellor/administration off in a difficult spot in his or her relationship with the campus,” Gates said.

The centrality of the chancellor role in university life demands that the final candidates be exposed to those working and learning at the university.

It is hard to see, given the limited nature of what is being requested in the open search, that a confidentiality breach would affect potential chancellor candidates’ decisions to participate.

This should not be much of a problem since all that is being proposed is that the final three candidates be known, not all who are considered.

Chris Thaxton, a member of the committee who voted for an open search, understands the merits of a closed search, but believes that an open search would serve “as a possible means for unifying the campus around a common, critical goal.”

Above all else, this is what matters most: Creating unity at the campus and allowing the university to see who could potentially lead us in the near future and to do so in a way that will not risk ousting qualified candidates.

Closing the search and preventing these individuals from interacting with the people and groups they each could potentially lead is a mistake by the committee.

**CORRECTION: The article misquotes a source. Paul Gates, a member of Faculty Senate, said the campus community, Faculty Senate and Staff Senate could “meet with the final three candidates who make the short list,” not dozens, as the article suggests. Gates referred to dozens of possible campus representatives with whom the final three candidates could meet. The Appalachian apologizes for the error.

Opinion: KEVIN GRIFFIN, Opinion writer