KSU journalism professors urge open presidential search


Taylor Hudak

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

Faculty in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication (JMC) penned a public statement that asks Kent State’s presidential search committee and the Board of Trustees to commit to an open search as they look for a successor to current President Beverly Warren.

The statement, released Dec. 17, calls for a transparent search process where finalists for the presidential position will be publicly vetted. It also asks the university to meet its obligations under the Ohio Public Records Act, which includes proper retention of records.

“The Kent State University School of Journalism and Mass Communication is committed to instilling in our students a strong appreciation for open government and the right of the press and the public to engage in effective oversight of government agencies,” the statement said.

Mark Goodman, the Knight Chair in Scholastic Journalism and a journalism professor, wrote the statement.

“While the search was in its early stages, we wanted to put ourselves on the record and actually ask that the search committee seriously consider changing the way the search would be conducted as compared to last time,” Goodman said about the statement.

After Kent State’s 2013-14 search for President Beverly Warren, some JMC faculty members signed a statement that condemned the closed process. Goodman said the last statement came too late, after Warren was already selected. Faculty Senate adopted the letter as a resolution.

The new statement references the last presidential search and criticizes the lack of public input. No finalists were brought to campus for public vetting.

“Through no fault of her own, Warren started as president under a cloud of suspicion because of the secrecy surrounding her hiring,” the statement said.

Eric Mansfield, the executive director of university media relations, said two weeks ago the committee will decide whether the search is open or closed.

“The search committee includes people who I think understand the value of transparency,” Goodman said, “so I really hope the committee is able to discuss and make a decision that’s more reflective of the university’s values as it relates to the search.”

Amy Reynolds, the dean of the College of Communication and Information (CCI)— which includes the School of Journalism and Mass Communication — is on the 16-member search committee. Reynolds is a co-author of “The Law of Journalism and Mass Communication,” a popular textbook; her research focuses on “dissent and the First Amendment, First Amendment history and media sociology, particularly in relationship to media coverage of breaking news and terrorism,” according to her profile page on the university’s website.

Gene Shelton, the coordinator for diversity initiatives at the university and a journalism professor, also serves on the committee.

Reynolds and Shelton, along with other committee members, signed codes of conduct that pledged confidentiality and agreed to allow the committee’s chair, Board of Trustees member Shawn Riley, to answer all media inquiries relevant to the search.

KentWired’s attempts to reach Reynolds for comment were unsuccessful. Shelton referred KentWired to the Office of University Communications and Marketing.

Current JMC faculty members who signed the letter:

  • Candace Perkins Bowen

  • Stephanie Smith

  • Mark Goodman

  • Karl Idsvoog

  • Jan Leach

  • Jacqueline Marino

  • Mitch McKenney

  • Gordon Murray

Emeriti professors who signed the letter:

  • Ann Schierhorn

  • Carl Schierhorn

  • Timothy Smith

  • Barbara Hipsman Springer

  • Fred Endres

  • William Sledzik

Goodman also said he invited CCI faculty members to sign any other future statements. Faculty Senate Chair Pamela Grimm forwarded the statement to all senators.

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

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