Faculty express concern about presidential search

Madeleine Winer

Members of the Faculty Senate voiced their concerns about the search for Kent State’s next president at the senate’s meeting Monday.

“One of the issues that I have is this shroud of secrecy that exists even right now before it [the selection process] begins,” Pan-African Studies professor George Garrison said. “I didn’t hear a clear statement from the chair and vice chair of the committee that they will have an open search. Commitment to an open search is not there, and that’s not good for faculty, students or staff.”

Richard Marsh, chair of the presidential search committee, and Dennis Eckart, vice chair of the committee, addressed the senate relaying the committee’s mission, the competition it faces from other universities and steps it has taken so far in searching for Kent State’s next president.

“We have 70 responses that have come to the committee through the [online] portal,” Marsh said about receiving online feedback about the search. “Right now, we are meeting with a lot of people. This is the 10th or 11th one, and it reinforces the passion people have around improving Kent State University.”

Garrison, who was a professor at Kent State when Lefton became president, criticized the presidential search committee for not having the amount of African-American committee members to accurately reflect the Kent State population and diversity.

“The presidential search committee is deeply flawed,” Garrison said. “There is not a single black faculty member or student. As far as I’m concerned, there is no excuse for that in the year 2013. Absence of African-American faculty and black students is a serious flaw and needs to be corrected.”

Marsh said Ronald Fowler and Jerry Sue Thornton, the African-American representatives on the search committee, were chosen from a list from the Committee on Administrative Officers.

Senators expressed their disappointment with how President Lester Lefton was announced as president. Many want to see the faculty have a more active role with finding Lefton’s replacement.

“The faculty knows many people, and we can see if there are skeletons in the closet,” psychology professor David Riccio said about exposing finalists for the position. “We should open it as broadly as possible.”

Philosophy professor Deborah Smith said she would like to see the next Kent State chief have experience with a unionized faculty or as an administrator, which she said was a source of “rockiness” in the past.

“It should raise a red flag if a candidate is not willing to meet with faculty,” Smith said. “[The search] should open up to faculty when there is a small number of finalists.”

Marsh said the four senators on the committee — Susan Roxburgh, Tom Janson, Paul Farrell and Lee Fox-Cardamone — provide “broader input and more faculty participation” in the search.

Farrell, professor of computer science and senate chair, said he would have preferred Lefton come to campus before he was formally approved by the Board of Trustees.

“That’s probably the opinion of most faculty members,” Farrell said. “In terms of the new president starting off in a good position in respect to the faculty, it helps if he has been present. We would like it to be more open at the final stages.”

Farrell said the committee is currently accepting and reviewing applications and won’t make decisions about candidates for another month. Farrell and Marsh said the committee has not decided if it will announce finalists.

“We’ll have to see how things unfold,” he said. “If we get one unanimous vote, it will follow a different path than if we have three candidates.”

Contact Madeleine Winer at [email protected].