Board of Trustees considers expanding Presidential Search Committee, revising process

The following communication was sent by the UA Board of Trustees to the University of Akron community Nov. 28, 2018:

Selecting the next president of The University of Akron is the most important responsibility the Board of Trustees faces. The next leader of our almost 150-year old institution will need to build on the heritage and strength that UA has established, grapple with the myriad challenges that higher education faces, both here in Northeast Ohio and across the country, and position UA for the start of its next 150 years of educating a diverse student population, generating knowledge and serving the community.

To help achieve that goal, the Board is committed to gaining significant input from internal and external constituencies on the qualities, qualifications and experiences desired in a new president, involving members of the University community in a meaningful way throughout the process and finding the best possible candidate for the presidency. After careful consideration and evaluation of various methodologies for conducting a university presidential search, the UA Board of Trustees is considering a proposal to revise its current selection process.

The proposal would:

  • Utilize a Presidential Screening and Advisory Committee to seek opinions and suggestions from University constituency groups concerning the proposed criteria, process and scheduling for the search process. Input would be gathered from a representative of the Council of Deans; department chairs; Faculty Senate; senior administration; the Contract Professional Advisory Committee (CPAC); Staff Employee Advisory Committee (SEAC); University Council; the Akron AAUP; students, and community leaders. The Board will consider the recommendations from all constituency groups, but retains the final authority to determine the criteria, process and schedule for the search.
  • Expand the Presidential Search Committee to include the full Board of Trustees (nine voting members, two non-voting student members and two non-voting advisory trustees) and add the elected leaders of University Council, Faculty Senate, Undergraduate Student Government, the Contract Professional Advisory Committee (CPAC); Staff Employee Advisory Committee (SEAC), and the Akron AAUP. All members of the Committee would have access to all materials and participate in all discussions related to the presidential search. The Committee would make a consensus recommendation to the Board, which would retain final decision-making authority to select the next president.
  • Ensure consideration of the best possible group of potential presidents by conducting the search in executive sessions of the Board and maintaining confidentiality of the consideration and selection process and requiring non-Board members to sign pledges of confidentiality. Board members already are bound by law to keep confidential matters discussed in executive session.

Board President Joseph M. Gingo stated, “We believe that having more members of the University community participate in the discussions of the Board throughout the entire search process, rather than just making observations about finalist candidates at the end, strengthens shared governance and will yield a better decision by the Board. We also believe that attracting the best candidates necessitates conducting the search in executive session and maintaining confidentiality. While we understand concerns that some may have about this approach, the reality of searches at this level is that top candidates will be extremely unlikely to have their names circulated publicly while they are hold current prominent positions. We think an appropriate balance is struck by having broader representation on the Presidential Search Committee.”

The Akron AAUP Executive Committee has voiced support for the proposed changes, stating “…they represent a better reflection of shared governance. … Faculty representatives have never before had the opportunity to be so involved in a presidential search, or to be involved so early in the process. The Executive Committee sees this as an opportunity for improved communication with the Board of Trustees.” Because the current presidential search process also is part of the Akron AAUP’s collective bargaining agreement with the University, members will be voting on a proposed change to that agreement, beginning in early December.

Other University constituencies are scheduled to offer their perspectives on the proposed process during meetings on November 29, 2018 (Faculty Senate) and December 4, 2018 (University Council). The Board Rules Committee meets at 7:00AM on November 29, 2018 to consider the proposal. Full Board consideration of the proposed rule is tentatively scheduled for the next full Board meeting (December 5, 2018), pending action by the Rules Committee.