Year in Review: The chancellor search

By Annabeth Carlson

Since last August, the University has been searching for a new chancellor after former Chancellor Phyllis Wise stepped down along with Provost Ilesanmi Adesida. The search for provost will not begin until a new chancellor is named.

The path for a new chancellor began in earnest August 31, when the Senate Executive Committee began organizing the guidelines for a search committee. Students got the chance to be assigned to the committee during an Illinois Student Senate meeting on October 7.

The search committee was fully put together and announced on October 23, and Antoinette Burton was appointed committee chair a month later.

The search committee is comprised of 15 total members, eight being faculty members, two undergraduate students, one graduate student, one assistant dean, one director and one member from Facilities and Services. The committee works with and advises President Timothy Killeen on the selection of the new chancellor.

In February of this year, it was announced that search firm Greenwood/Asher & Associates would be contributing to the chancellor search.

The main role of Greenwood/Asher & Associates is to help with the search process by providing logistical support, Burton said.

“They have contacts in the world of higher education,” she said. “But we the committee, are really the drivers of the search.”

Greenwood/Asher & Associates have been hired by the University in previous chancellor, president and director searches. The firm has been paid $838,677 in contracts by the University in the last five years, which is part of the $5.6 million spent overall on administrative searches at all three UI campuses.

Throughout February and most of March, the committee and President Killeen worked on a job description outlining the expectations of the chancellor position, which was posted on the Office of the Chancellor’s website on March 28.

According to the description, the committee is looking for an individual who is “an accomplished scholar and an experienced academic leader who understands that research and teaching excellence, together with service and public engagement, are at the very heart of the land-grant university.”

Some of the responsibilities outlined in the job description include managing the operating budget, overseeing public safety and campus compliance with federal and state regulations and overseeing the development, delivery and assessment of academic programs, policies and research activities.

Public forums to get feedback from the campus community were held all throughout March, with the final one being held April 3. By this point, President Killeen made an emphasis to have completed this process by the 2016-2017 school year.

“There is no specific date for the final selection of a candidate,” Burton said. “We do very much hope to have a new Chancellor by the fall of 2016.”

After this final open meeting, it was revealed that the finalist interviews with candidates would be private and confidential.

The confidentiality of the process itself is not unusual for chancellor searches. Tom Hardy, University spokesman, said this confidentiality has always been the norm.

“As is the case with a vast preponderance of peer institutions, top tier private and public research universities,” Hardy said. “The U of I maintains the confidentiality of the candidates throughout the search process and the only identity divulged is the person eventually selected for the job.”

Hardy said current candidates for the job may be working in senior positions at different schools or businesses, which is why confidentiality is necessary to collect the best candidates. Still, several members of faculty had a negative reaction to the confidentiality.

Landscape Architecture professor D. Fairchild Ruggles said that these finalist interviews should adhere to the principles of transparency that they will be placed under as chancellor.

“If we seek a candidate who will steward faculty governance and transparency on this campus, we cannot do so through procedures that subvert those very principles,” Ruggles said. “Our hiring process must match our stated objectives.”

Languages professor Harriet Murav said that while he respects his colleagues on the chancellor search committee greatly he still does not agree with this confidentiality.

“This is not the openness this campus in particular needs, given our recent history,” Murav said. “We need a chancellor who supports the rights of our non-tenure stream faculty colleagues to unionize and have a fair contract. I doubt very much that this issue will be properly addressed, absent a public hearing.”

The deadline for all candidate applications is May 13. While most of the information about the candidates remains confidential, she says that the process has shown many capable people.

“What I can say is that we have had a lot of great nominations through our Chancellor’s search portal — people from all over campus have been very generous with their time and thoughtfulness in that regard. We are enthusiastic about the process going forward.”

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