Board leaders move forward in search for UM president

The committee spent two days interviewing the three finalists to replace Elson Floyd.
Sunday, May 27, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 3:41 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The UM System Board of Curators met Friday by conference call to discuss the recommendations of the UM Presidential Search Advisory Committee on who should become the next system president.

Members of the advisory committee met on Tuesday and Wednesday to interview three candidates. The 19-member committee was created to advise curators in their search to replace Elson Floyd, who has left UM to lead Washington State University.

“The curators appreciated the feedback and wanted to discuss that,” UM System spokesman Scott Charton said.

Chairman Frank Schmidt said the advisory committee held 90-minute interviews with each of the three candidates before making individual recommendations that were submitted to the curators, who will make the final decision.

“The procedure was different than just making a (group) recommendation,” Schmidt said. “We did not rank the candidates and were asked not to rank the candidates.”

Schmidt said he did not know which candidate the Board of Curators favored. One of the candidates is U.S. Rep. Kenny Hulshof, who confirmed Wednesday that he was interviewed by committee members.

As in most of the search proceedings, Friday’s conference call was held in closed session. Curator Bo Fraser of Columbia participated in the 50-minute call at University Hall. Charton said curators have no timetable for announcing their selection to replace Floyd.

“It is the wish of the curators that this process be confidential, and we are trying to honor that,” he said.

News that Hulshof was interviewed by the committee drew mixed responses from some within the university community. Rex Campbell, the MU Faculty Council chairman, said he could see advantages and disadvantages to having a politician as the UM System president.

“He is a practicing politician who is a conservative Republican who can operate well with the state legislature and the Missouri governor,” he said. “If he’s trying to tell the academic world how to operate, that’s a major problem.”

John Lichtenegger, a former president of the Board of Curators who has been critical of the current board, said he has no problem with a politician leading the UM system, as long as he or she remains fiercely independent. Lichtenegger said that because the tenures of university presidents tend to be short — averaging 5 to 7 years — choosing someone who is familiar with the system is important. “Folks down here talked about someone with familiarity with the Missouri system,” said Lichtenegger, who practices law in Jackson. “About the time they register in the retirement system, they’re off to their next job.”

Charton said he did not know if all three candidates were still in the running for the position and declined to say whether curators have begun negotiations with any of the candidates. The board is scheduled to meet in Columbia for its regularly scheduled meeting next Thursday and Friday.

“The board members therefore will all be together,” Charton said. “It is very possible they will have a discussion about the presidential leadership at that point.”

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