Stakeholders want integrity, lobbying power in new MU chancellor

Monday, July 22, 2013 | 4:42 p.m. CDT; updated 8:37 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 23, 2013

COLUMBIA — Attention to faculty, integrity and an understanding of limited financial resources are the top qualities speakers at a meeting Monday hope to see in MU's next chancellor. 

The meeting is one of two forums — the second will be Thursday — that allow public input before the search goes behind closed doors.

University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe called the timeline for the search "aggressive yet reasonable." Although the system aims to have a new chancellor selected by the time Chancellor Brady Deaton retires Nov. 15, Wolfe said the search could be extended if the committee cannot find the right candidate.

At the meeting's conclusion, Wolfe said the comments reaffirmed many of the qualities the UM System hopes to see but also brought new ideas. 

Wolfe said that as the system begins its first external chancellor search in two decades, the chancellor's job description will likely point to an external candidate. 

"I would suspect the bar that is going to be set would suggest an outside candidate," Wolfe said, although he also said the committee would not rule out qualified internal candidates. 

The meeting was recorded for the search committee, the members of which will be announced in the next few days, Wolfe said. The feedback will also be used to create a profile of the ideal candidate.

"If you see me not taking copious notes, don't think I'm forgetting it," Wolfe told the 50 to 60 people in the audience.

Shared governance 

Faculty spoke on the importance of finding a chancellor who respects faculty governance.

Shared governance — the idea that faculty has primary decision-making authority on some issues and should share authority with or advise administrators on others — is written into MU's faculty bylaws. But controversies over the University of Missouri Press and Nuclear Science and Engineering Institute have put some professors at odds with administrators, including the chancellor.

"You look at the collected rules and you recognize that there is a true wisdom to having faculty in charge of curriculum," said chemical engineering professor Galen Suppes. "Not only are these collective rules there, but they make good sense and we have to follow them to attract good faculty."

Several faculty and staff members complained about Deaton's handling of the institute's future. The Faculty Council asked Deaton to restore the institute to its original form after administrators split it into a research program and academic program in March. 

"Chancellor Deaton has done zero about that," institute secretary Latricia Vaughn said of the council's resolution. "Zippo. Nada. Nothing."

Suppes said he viewed Deaton's inaction as a breach of shared governance. 

"The chancellor knows what faculty governance is," Suppes said. "Doing nothing can be a major aggressive action. It can be a major indication of a lack of integrity."

Suppes and Vaughn urged Wolfe to consider integrity and honesty as top priorities in a new chancellor.

Higher education funding 

Students and faculty highlighted an ability to bring in funding as another important quality in a chancellor. Many of the 11 people who spoke at the meeting said they were concerned by the state's shrinking education funding. They said they needed a chancellor who can lobby with legislators in Jefferson City but also rein in major private donations. 

"The university is not going to make it on the basis of the assets and resources that are here within Missouri," said Elizabeth Cogswell, senior director of development at MU. "Therefore, we need to look outside of Missouri much more than we have."

Speaking for the students, Missouri Students Association President Nick Droege said the next chancellor needs to be accessible to, and advocating for, students.

"It's becoming more and more important that we have a chancellor that is advocating on behalf of students and is going to interact with legislators and is going to fight for students, the university, faculty, staff and funding in general. " Droege said.

Droege said a chancellor should focus on the accessibility of higher education. This includes not only keeping college costs low, but also providing support services.

"We have more and more students going to college, but we have an increased percentage of first-year dropouts," Droege said. "Focusing on the resources we're using to retain our students is also extremely important."

Search details

The system is using California search firm Storbeck/Pimentel & Associates to help the system identify candidates. It's the same firm the system used to place Hank Foley as executive vice president of academic affairs in June. 

Wolfe said the quick, three-month search for Foley, who came to the system from Pennsylvania State University, was part of the reason the system decided to work with the firm again. He said search firms are essential to help coax high-level administrators out of their positions at other universities.

"All of the competitive candidates did not come from responding to an ad in the Chronicle (of Higher Education)," Wolfe said of the system's last search. "They were pulled out of their seats and pulled out of their comfort zone by the search firm."

Peter Wilden, an associate professor in the School of Medicine, asked Wolfe to consider looking at candidates who once worked at MU but left for administrative positions at other universities.

Wolfe said his own connections to MU helped land him the job as system president and acknowledged that a strong candidate would likely have connections to the state or the system.

"I would suspect an Ivy League New Englander that has never ventured out of New England wouldn't be comfortable in this role," Wolfe said.  

Additional concerns

Referring to a slew of retirements expected among deans and provosts, Cogswell asked that the new chancellor be experienced in hiring.

"I hope that you will take a hard look at the hiring that this person has done in their previous position," Cogswell said. "There is going to be real turnover here."

Athletics department assistant Gary Link reminded meeting attendees to throw their support behind the next chancellor, regardless of whether or not they think the person was right for the job.

"We have to all get behind him or her," Link said. "We have to back this person with everything we can to make this great university even better."

Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.

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