The search for the next University president is complex, to say the least.
The University’s Board of Regents announced the formation of a Presidential Search Advisory Committee in July. The committee, carried out by Russell Reynolds Associates executive recruiting firm and seven faculty members, has already met — and will continue to do so — to evaluate potential candidates for the next president of the University.
University President Mary Sue Coleman announced her retirement at the April regents meeting. It will begin on July 31, 2014.
Regent Katherine White (D–Ann Arbor) wrote in an e-mail interview that the firm and the advisory committee will assist the board “in this monumental task,” which includes developing a pool of candidates, conducting interviews and recommending candidates to the board.
The firm and the seven faculty members serve as the Presidential Search Advisory Committee to the Board of Regents, who alone serve as the Presidential Search Committee. Ultimately, the final choice for the next president will be left up to the board.
Unlike past years, the advisory committee doesn’t include a student representative. Under the State of Michigan Constitution, the regents “shall, as often as necessary, elect a president of the institution under its supervision,” meaning the board has “the sole authority and responsibility” to elect the president, according to White.
Out of the top 25 U.S. public universities, the University of Michigan and Clemson University are the only institutions that didn’t include students on their most recent presidential search committees. The College of William and Mary did not have a formal committee beyond its Board of Visitors in its most recent search.
Instead of allowing students on the actual search committee, the regents and their advisers announced the dates of public forums that will allow students, faculty, alumni, staff and the general public to weigh in on the presidential search. The forums will be question-and-answer based, and will survey attendees on the qualities they desire in the next University president.
White wrote that the forums will allow the committee to gather “different perspectives” on important qualities necessary in the next president. The committee will take the information into account when making recommendations to the board to select the new president.
To develop a diverse selection of candidates, the board will consider contenders nominated by the search firm as well as names received at the search committee’s e-mail address, firstname.lastname@example.org, to which the public can submit recommendations.
White could not give many details on the search process itself, since the process is still underway and its details are private.
However, University alum Matt Nolan — former Michigan Student Assembly president and member of the 2001 search committee that chose Coleman — said the committee he participated on spoke with former University presidents as well as the current president at the time, Lee Bollinger, who now serves as the president of Columbia University.
The 2001 group — which also included University alum Lisa Jackson, current regents White, Laurence Deitch (D–Bloomfield Hills) and Andrew Fischer Newman (R–Ann Arbor) and Athletic Director Dave Brandon, a former regent — fielded through many resumes and CVs, eventually narrowing down candidates and conducting interviews.
Nolan said he felt fortunate to participate on the board, especially since he heard from Coleman before she was hired on why she deserved to be the University president.
“Hearing in her words sort of why she would want to leave the position she was in to become president of the University of Michigan, to me, underscored my appreciation for how special of a place Michigan is and just how really unique it is not just in the state, not just in the country, but in the world it can bring together,” Nolan said.
Nolan and Jackson served as student representatives for the group — a role missing in the current committee. Nolan said he felt his presence allowed the group to remind the committee of the importance of students and to take that point into consideration during the search process.
However, times have changed. With the advent of social media, Nolan said, a student representative on the committee runs the risk of breaching privacy and possibly leaking secretive information.
However, students plan to take the input that they do have with great stride. The University Council established a student committee that will gather student opinions on the qualities desired in the next president through a five-question survey to be e-mailed to the student body.
The compiled feedback from that committee will be presented at the public forum on Sept. 26. Since the group is recognized by the regents, White said the committee is “crucial” in aiding the process.
One year ago, the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill — another large, public research university — underwent and completed a chancellor search with a 21-member committee that held four public forums that were similar to the University’s upcoming meetings. The committee included members of the school’s Board of Trustees, students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members.
The UNC committee selected R. William Funk & Associates to help the search process for a price of $120,000, excluding additional travel and general expenses. It also set up an e-mail address to which the public could send their opinions and nominations.
Although the committee met privately, they published their meeting location, dates and some of the minutes for the public to see. The committee held a total of 19 meetings, including the public forums, between Nov. 2012 and March 2013. The chosen chancellor, Carol Folt, who served as interim president at Dartmouth College before former University Provost Phil Hanlon took office, was appointed in April.
However, as the committee-sponsored public forums began Tuesday, the decision on who the next president of the University will be inches closer and closer with each opinion offered.
—Daily News Editor Alicia Adamczyk contributed to this report.