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Thursday, April 10, 2008

Secret University Presidential Searches: A Bit More Context

The Fayetteville, North Carolina Observer weighs in on secret university searches, conducting a nice national tally of who does what...

North Carolina is the only state in the nation that selects the top leaders of all its public universities in secret.

In 49 other states, the names of the finalists for university president or chancellor positions are made public, a Fayetteville Observer study shows. Six states release the names of all applicants.

A few states have no single governing policy, according to the survey of 118 university systems or individual schools. Some universities in those states close the process, but at least one school or university system in every state, except North Carolina, selects leaders in public.

The story continues to report that Amanda Martin, a lawyer for the North Carolina Press Association, said she would endorse moving to a system in which the names of job finalists are made public. That’s what roughly 85 percent of public universities do across the country, according to the Observer survey.

In North Carolina, each university has a search process to choose three candidates for its chancellor position. Those candidates are submitted to university system President Erskine Bowles, who recommends one to the UNC board of governors. Only then — when it’s time to vote on the one candidate recommended by Bowles — is the secrecy lifted. And only the name of the person recommended is released.

I especially enjoy THIS section, in which the newspaper tests one of the major assumptions of the closed search crowd: that it scares off would-be applicants...

A check of news reports shows that several educators — including the recently installed N.C. Central University chancellor, Dr. Charlie Nelms, and two current finalists for Fayetteville State University’s chancellor position — have been candidates in public searches without losing their jobs.

Nelms, prior to being hired at NCCU in 2007, competed and became a finalist for presidential or chancellor posts at four other universities in a four-year period, including Fayetteville State in 2003, Florida A&M in 2004 and Tennessee State in 2005.

During each search, Nelms was identified as a candidate. Meanwhile, he kept his job as vice president at Indiana University.

Two finalists in the current search for FSU’s chancellor — Dr. James A. Anderson, a professor at Albany University, and Dr. Albert L. Walker, president of Bluefield State College — have been finalists in other presidential searches during the last three years, the Observer has learned.

Anderson was a 2007 finalist for the presidency of California State University-Dominguez Hills. Walker was a 2005 finalist for the presidency of Langston University in Oklahoma and was eliminated in an early round of a 2006 Florida A&M University presidential search.

Both Anderson and Walker are still at their schools.

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