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Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Frustrated Profs Shut Down A Chancellor Search, Leaving President ‘Mortified'

UMassChronicle of Higher Education, Frustrated Professors Shut Down a Chancellor Search, Leaving UMass’s President ‘Mortified’:

The search for a new chancellor of the University of Massachusetts at Boston was shut down on Monday after the three finalists for the job dropped out. The candidates made their decision following faculty criticism of both the finalists and the search process.

That’s an unusual outcome to a very common controversy. The widespread use of search consultants, the decline in shared governance, and the politicization of higher education have all contributed to the marginalization of faculty input in searches.

As a result, you don’t have to look far these days to find a search for a college or university leader in which the faculty feels left out.

The University of Oklahoma, for example, appointed a new president in March, the former oil-company executive James L. Gallogly, without revealing the names of any finalists and over the objections of faculty members, who said the process had been too secretive. Other high-profile searches, at the University of Florida, the University of Iowa, and the University of North Carolina system, were also widely protested for their secrecy and the lack of input from instructors.

That was the complaint, too, at the University of Massachusetts at Boston, where just two faculty members were appointed to a 15-person committee charged with finding a new chancellor. And when the three finalists were named this month, faculty members openly criticized them as underqualified to run the university, which enrolls more than 16,000 students.

The finalists were Kathy Humphrey, senior vice chancellor for engagement at the University of Pittsburgh; Peter Lyons, vice president and dean of Perimeter College at Georgia State University; and Jack Thomas, president of Western Illinois University. ...

The Boston faculty also voted no confidence this month in the system’s president, Martin T. Meehan. ... In announcing the closing of the chancellor search, Meehan released a letter saying he was “mortified” at the “sensationalized critiques of these candidates’ professional and academic qualifications and accomplishments.” He also blasted the faculty critics for “questioning the personal and professional qualifications of three accomplished higher-education leaders.” That showed, he said, that the critics “would not participate in the kind of partnership necessary for a new chancellor to succeed.”

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Wasn't it Henry Kissinger who said that academic squabbles were so intense "because the stakes are so small"?

Posted by: Michael W. Perry | May 26, 2018 4:49:44 AM

Michael, I believe it was C.P. Snow, the physicist and novelist who said that.

Posted by: PaulB | May 26, 2018 11:57:52 AM

Jeebus. I see the same thing where I am. I'm not sure what would make the faculty senate happy about upper level admin hires unless they had total charge. Unfortunately, most of them have pretty much zero understanding of what the jobs entail, other than 'giving' the faculty stuff.

Posted by: Jorge McKie | May 26, 2018 3:24:21 PM

Actually, that quote seems to be a universal statement and nobody is sure. LOL. See:

Posted by: Tom N. | May 26, 2018 3:51:22 PM

The faculty wants someone with little independence so they can push that person around. Stunts like this assure that it will get that person.

Posted by: Jim | May 26, 2018 5:27:11 PM

@Michael Perry: the stakes are no longer so small; the Chancellor's salary is over $350K.

Posted by: hmi | May 26, 2018 7:09:30 PM

It depends on what faculty are doing the objecting. but if its the typical lefties, I would actually rather have the independent hiring commission. maybe they can hire somebody who can stand up to the SJWs and actually encourage non Marxists.

Posted by: richard40 | May 27, 2018 8:06:13 PM

The comments here show the kind of intolerance for faculty governance and acceptance of corporatist-style "leadership" that has made the corporatization of the University possible. Faculty should chair and be the majority on a search committee for a faculty president (and those faculty serving should be elected by the faculty governance organization, typically the Senate). When faculty have a real voice, it means that they are listened to and can help inform better decisions, not that they dictate results. When faculty have a real voice in a search, candidates tend to be people who understand the academic institution and its role as an educator, rather than people who merely present credentials from the corporate world or the corporate side of university administrations who tend to think of students as "consumers", faculty as nothing more than "employees" and themselves (administrators) as "the University"--all elements of the corporatist mindset. Whether left or right in general ideology, faculty want administrators who understand that academe does not work like a factory, with top-down directives without consultation with those at the heart of the academic enterprise.
What makes most of us unhappy with senior administrators is when they care more about rewarding themselves with higher and higher salaries for less and less work, building "turf" to claim status, and becoming known in elite circles than they care about ensuring that faculty and students can work together to create a good learning environment.

Posted by: Linda Beale | May 30, 2018 11:35:13 AM