KSU Trustees Chair: ‘No laws have been broken’

Letter to the Editor

The success of Kent State University’s recent presidential search is already being felt across the region as Dr. Beverly J. Warren prepares to assume her new role in July, yet stories about the completed search process have misled the public’s perception of how and why we reached our decision. 

Contrary to what you may have read, no laws have been broken and no public records have been shredded.  We followed an approach that has been mirrored by other research universities across the country and Ohio with consistent and successful results.  The university has released more than 500 pages of documents in response to records requests.  All expenses have had appropriate administrative review, were processed through normal procedures, and have been disclosed to the public. The cost of the search is comparable to those of other presidential searches conducted by research universities.

To ensure we complied with all legal requirements, our general counsel instructed the board and the search committee about their duties and responsibilities under state law, all of which were followed scrupulously. The responsibility for hiring the president rests solely with the board of trustees.

The trustees directed that this search should seek input from as many members of our community as possible.  Board members held numerous meetings and forums with our stakeholders to seek their guidance.  Unlike some universities that have used search committees comprised solely of trustees, the board wanted a more broadly representative group to direct our search.  As a result, we invited leaders from academia, students, administration, alumni, and the community at large to participate in our 17-member Presidential Search Committee.

The search committee brought great professionalism to the task, and the group’s signing of a confidentiality agreement is considered a best practice in executive searches that allows for comfortable, open dialogue.  Further, committee members can make or discard notes kept for their personal use, which are not a public record under Ohio law. A review of similar searches and the advice of professionals overwhelmingly convinced the board that the quality of candidates for our presidency would be directly related to the confidentiality afforded to their interest.

So why take all of these steps in seeking our next president?  Because Kent State wasn’t the only university in the country or in Ohio seeking a successful leader to take charge.  When it comes to courting a top executive, timing and approach are critical.

The trustees believe the quality of the outcome of the search is a testament to the deliberations and the process we followed.  The challenges of higher education, the need to educate our students to provide greater opportunities, and to expand our economy meant that we could not afford to hire anyone but the best.  It is precisely because of the strength and inclusiveness of our search process that the trustees have the highest confidence that we found the most highly talented next president of Kent State University, Dr. Beverly J. Warren.

When President Lefton announced his retirement last year, the board realized that it had an extremely important mission to accomplish. Our focus was to conduct a national search to recruit the candidate who best embodied the skills and qualifications necessary to take Kent State to the next level of excellence.  We’ve now done exactly that, and I thank the search committee for its hard work and service.

So as we celebrate the close of the 2013-14 academic year, it is appropriate to applaud the many successes at Kent State University.  On behalf of the board of trustees, I would like to thank and congratulate the Kent State community for its dedication and commitment to excellence.  The trustees would also like to thank President Lefton for his remarkable service over the last eight years, while commending and thanking all of those involved in the search process that brought Dr. Warren to campus.

Jane Murphy Timken


Kent State University Board of Trustees