Search firm proposed closed search for new Kent State president

Kent State University Board of Trustees Chair Ralph Della Ratta holds the “committee of the whole” meeting on Dec. 5, 2018. At right is President Beverly Warren. The Board named an executive search firm, Russell Reynolds Associates, to find Warren’s replacement when she retires July 1, 2019.

Laina Yost

The proposal submitted by the search firm Kent State hired to find President Beverly Warren’s successor provides a potential window into what the process could look like.

Russell Reynolds Associates outlines a timeline of six months that shows the search would be completed by May 13, 2019.

The university’s Board of Trustees selected the New York City-based global executive search firm Wednesday. It was one of 15 firms that applied for the job via Kent State’s referral for proposal process.

KentWired obtained Russell Reynolds’ 32-page proposal via public records request. A request for the contract between the university and the firm has yet to be fulfilled.

The firm recommended a fully-closed process in its proposal. The last Kent State presidential search had been met with criticism, including accusations that the university didn’t follow public records law, and that finalists weren’t brought to campus for public vetting.

“Based on our vast experience, we have learned that many excellent candidates will refuse to be considered unless their confidentiality is guaranteed throughout the search,” the proposal states. “Many candidates will be sitting presidents, provosts and deans who are actively recruiting faculty and actively raising funds.” 

Russell Reynolds said an open search could damage a potential candidate standing with their current employer. The search committee will decide on how the process will operate.

The proposal states all candidate information would be considered confidential, and the information wouldn’t be disclosed unless it’s required by law.

“As always, the university will continue to abide by all applicable laws while seeking outstanding candidates to serve as our university’s next president,” said Board Chair Ralph Della Ratta in a press release last week.

Russell Reynolds promised a diverse pool of candidates and said it will make a special effort to “reach out especially to women and to underrepresented minorities.” The firm describes itself as a leader in diversity recruitment.

“In the context of our Higher Education searches, it is our practice never to move forward with a slate of semi-finalists that does not include women and underrepresented minorities,” the firm said.

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The search committee will have access to a password-protected website to look through candidate resumes. The proposal also states the firm will work with the committee to create a document that specifies what Kent State is looking for in a new president.

The proposal made no mention of confidentiality agreements with the search committee, which was required in the last search.

The proposed fee structure is one-third of the hired candidate’s estimated first-year salary, including bonuses and an administrative fee of $9,000. The last presidential search cost Kent State about $250,000.

Jett Pihakis, a search consultant for the firm, will co-lead the search with Meredith Rosenberg, the executive director of higher education at Russell Reynolds. Pihakis led five dean searches at Kent State and co-led four presidential searches with Rosenberg.

Storbeck Pimentel & Associates, the non-profit firm Kent State used when it hired Warren as president in 2014, also applied for this search. Witt/Kieffer, which found the new vice president of enrollment management for the university, also applied.

The members of the search committee are expected to be announced this week. It will likely consist of around 17 members and include faculty, staff, students and community members, much like the committee that selected Warren.

Laina Yost is the enterprise editor. Contact her at [email protected]

 

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