- Tracy Ko/Daily
By Peter Shahin, Daily News Editor
Published September 26, 2013
The Presidential Search Advisory Committee got an earful. And that’s exactly what they wanted.
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On Thursday, members of the University’s Board of Regents and the Presidential Search Advisory Committee heard from faculty, staff and students at two separate forums held on campus — soliciting feedback on the opportunities and challenges that await the University in the near future as well as what qualities they’d like to see in the next president.
While not all regents or committee members were present, Alison Ranney, the University’s search consultant from Russell Reynolds Associates, took comments from speakers and help the audience better understand the firm’s role in the selection process.
The first of the day’s two forums, held at Hutchins Hall, was geared primarily toward faculty and staff from the Ann Arbor campus. The forum was the third so far, after one at the University of Michigan-Flint and one on the Medical Campus. Two more forums are planned for Friday, one at the University of Michigan-Dearborn and the other in Blau Auditorium, which will be geared toward the Ann Arbor community and general public.
The forum opened with brief remarks from Regent Katherine White (D), the vice chair of the board, who said the purpose of the session was to help the committee better understand the needs and challenges facing the staff.
The Presidential Search Advisory Committee is composed of seven faculty members and all eight members of the Board of Regents. The committee’s role, however, is purely advisory as the final decision of whom will be selected will be left to the regents.
Search Advisory Committee members Lynn Perry Wooten, associate dean of undergraduate programs at the Ross School of Business; Jeffrey MacKie-Mason, dean of the School of Information; Tiya Miles, chair of the Afroamerican and African Studies department; and Regent Julia Darlow (D) were sitting behind the rostrum taking notes on speakers’ comments.
Ranney briefly addressed the faculty, saying the purpose of hiring a search consultant is not to pick the next University president, but to assist the Board of Regents in finding qualified candidates.
“What you’ll see is that this is really a discussion session, a listening session,” Ranney said.
Several issues recurred throughout the faculty forum, including faculty development and retention programs, providing growth for basic research opportunities and not just applied research, refocusing on creating a diverse University and increasing cross-disciplinary collaboration.
“We have a very unique position with Detroit not too far away and other urban areas that we can draw from,” James Logan, a BBA program outreach coordinator at the Business School, said. “I think it needs to be a focus of the strategic plan of the University, not a subset or an aside. … If we continue to go down this path of not improving declining underrepresented minority enrollment, it will send the message that we are not the leaders and best in our thoughts and our actions.”
Many faculty members said they were not concerned solely with racial diversity, but also deeply worried about socio-economic diversity at the University.
Engineering Prof. Bill Schultz spoke in favor of increasing interdisciplinary opportunities at the University for faculty — something that has been a priority for students in recent years. Schultz said that because the deans and heads of individual units are so powerful at the University, faculty often gravitate to one “silo,” instead of reaching out to their colleagues in other areas.
“One (way to overcome that) is to give a little more power to the provost,” Schultz said.