The Orion

Majority favor open selection of university presidents

The+survey+discusses+the+background+of+previous+presidential+searches+and+wants+feedback+regarding+current+practices.+Image+courtesy+of+the+CSUEU.
The survey discusses the background of previous presidential searches and wants feedback regarding current practices. Image courtesy of the CSUEU.

The survey discusses the background of previous presidential searches and wants feedback regarding current practices. Image courtesy of the CSUEU.

The survey discusses the background of previous presidential searches and wants feedback regarding current practices. Image courtesy of the CSUEU.

Michelle Zhu

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The CSU Employees Union, on behalf of the entire CSU system, released a survey asking whether the president selection process should be open or closed.

Chico State, along with four other campuses, are in the process of hiring new presidents.

Prior to 2011, the selection of a new president for each CSU campus was made public in every aspect. It was a common practice for search finalists to arrive on campus in the final stage of the selection process.

Campus communities would hear names of the finalists, and official visit itineraries were freely disclosed, said Pat Gantt, president of the CSUEU. Thus, campuses were allowed to see resumes and hear leadership styles of finalists. It also gave finalists a first-hand view of their prospective campus community, issues and interests.

However in 2011, a new Trustees Policy was amended by the CSU Board of Trustees, a policy which gave the CSU Chancellor and chair of the Trustees Committee power to decide whether the name of a university presidential candidate would be made public. That policy has lead to zero public announcements of finalists or visits to campus since 2011.

DeannaJarquinWEB.jpg

Deanna Jarquin, Associated Students president, said a closed presidential search isn't ideal. Photo credit: George Johnston

“This has to do with our campus because it represents a bigger system-wide conversation about open and closed searches,” said Deanna Jarquin, president of Associated Students. “CSU Chico is one of the campuses going through that state-wide process.”

Four years later, the CSUEU is asking for opinions on the matter. “Should it be an open process so that the campus communities can see and hear the finalists as part of the search process? Or is management correct that the best results come from a closed process?”

These are the questions asked in a survey run by the CSUEU as of November 2015 at the Board of Trustees meeting. Students, faculty and staff are all encouraged to give their opinion on the open or closed selection process of a new university president.

John Watson, the communications officer of the CSUEU has worked to make the survey accessible on the CSUEU Facebook page, as well as the CSU webpage.

As of Dec. 15, 1,325 people have accessed the survey with 48 percent of the respondents being staff, 5 percent being students, 46 percent being faculty, and a small number being the general community.

At least 83 percent have shown support for an open process. General responses in the surveys have shown that people would like to see openness since the CSU system is a public institution.

When the survey was released in November, a total of five CSU campuses were in search of a new president: Chico, San Jose, Sonoma, Channel Islands and Stanislaus.

CSUEU felt the time was right to see where people stood on the open selection process that was standard for decades before. Chico State, as well as the other four campuses, could represent a bigger system-wide conversation about open and closed searches.

“We’re the project everyone can cite for what’s happening,” Jarquin said. “Anytime I can get information about what students are thinking, that’s valuable to me.”

As of Feb. 1, San Jose State and Sonoma State have selected new university presidents. The other three are still searching. Pat Gantt, president of the CSUEU, hopes that once the survey comes to a close, the presidential selection process will be open so the remaining candidates can continue to see and engage with their prospective campuses, like years past.

Student officers, while representing the student body, have provided a list of desired traits of the next university president based on their own experiences and surveys from fellow students. Taking into consideration the differences of each CSU campus, the student officers crafted the following four most important traits needed in the next Chico State president:

  • approachability and interaction with the student body
  • shared governance
  • awareness and advocacy for growth and change
  • community oriented

Jarquin said it would be less ideal if the next president was appointed out of a closed process.

“That’d be a bad representation of a democracy,” said Jarquin. “It doesn’t feel good to not be involved in the most important decision Chico State will make.”

Based on responses in submitted surveys thus far and conversations on campus, the majority want to be in-the-know of the university president selection process.

The survey will remain available for students, faculty and staff to respond until mid-February.

Michelle Zhu can be reached at [email protected] or @mmichellezhuu on Twitter.

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Majority favor open selection of university presidents