The University Record, November 5, 2001

Faculty offer Regents their viewpoints on presidential search

By Theresa Maddix

The Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs (SACUA) devoted the Oct. 29 meeting of the Senate Assembly to a town hall format Presidential Search Forum. Regents Daniel Horning, Laurence Deitch, Olivia Maynard and Rebecca McGowan attended to listen to faculty from around the University and to provide brief statements of their own.

Mojtaba Navvab, chair of SACUA and Senate Assembly, warmed the audience up by reading a selection of e-mail messages he received from those unable or unwilling to attend. E-mail comments included a question from the School of Music on whether there would be “anyone speaking in support of the arts on campus”; a statement from the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation that “one of the attributes that ought to be seriously considered is gender”; and from the Department of Mechanical Engineering, “I feel it is essential that a representative faculty search committee be appointed.”

When the live commentary began it mirrored that of the e-mail selection in the many different tacks representatives took in addressing the Regents. One theme that emerged from many corners of the community—faculty and students—was a plea for a voice in the process. Another emerging theme was a request to seek out a visionary. Other comments contradicted each other. Some asked for someone who could move ahead with major initiatives such as the Life Sciences and others felt that expertise in these areas is already solid and that what is needed is a departure from the current key issues. Some asked for strong consideration of gender and diversity, some asked for an external candidate and others stated a strong preference only for picking “the best person for the job.”

Regent Maynard responded briefly to faculty comments, saying, “We are just beginning the process,” and indicating that a more formal process would follow. “I am committed to an open process,” Maynard said. “This is only one of a number of meetings we will hold.”

Regent Deitch said, “One specifically defined duty that we have is to select the president. We will pick someone committed to the life of the mind and to the enterprise.”

Regent Horning said, “This is the most important duty we have. We take it very, very seriously. For someone the presidency of the University of Michigan is a dream job and we will find that person.”

A summary of participants’ statements in the order presented follows:

Leslie Thornton, associate professor of education, U-M Dearborn, asked that any committee of faculty members include representatives from U-M Dearborn and U-M Flint.

Melissa Mercer, Ph.D. student in education and member of Rackham Student Government, asked the Regents to remember “that there are many, many stakeholders in the process” and that many issues affect graduate students.

Jeanne Raisler, assistant professor of nursing, said she hopes “the process can involve faculty, students and alumni to the greatest extent possible.” Raisler also suggested an online format for sharing information as the search progresses.

Aline Soules, scholarly communication librarian, said, “I seriously believe we need an external candidate. We need new blood.” Soules continued, saying the candidate “ought to have a presidential interest in ensuring balance, even in subjects that are not fashionable now.”

Matthew Kaplan, program manager for the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching, said, “I hope committees will ask the candidate about his or her views on teaching and learning.”

Dayna Santoro, undergraduate student, said she “hopes the candidate is sympathetic to student concerns for development and change on campus.”

William Schultz, professor of mechanical engineering and applied mechanics, said he hopes the Regents will explain the process early, especially since there is an interim provost who also is the vice president and secretary of the University, and since the interim President is a viable candidate.

Beth Sullivan, program manager for policy and advocacy at the Center for the Education of Women, said she is “interested in seeing a search that includes members of the University community—faculty, staff and students.”

Jan-Henrik Andersen, assistant professor of art and design, said the selection is not only about choosing a person but about identifying projected challenges.

Travis Jackson, assistant professor of music, said, “Art is often viewed as mere entertainment or enhancement, yet it can give us different ways of looking at the world around us.” Jackson would like to see a president committed to working with the faculty of the University.

Charles Koopman, associate chair and professor of otorhinolaryngology, asked that the choice not be limited by background. “The person should have a vision with a strong emphasis on teaching.”

Walter Drebler, professor emeritus, also asked for a person of vision. Drebler said this can “most likely be verified by past accomplishments.”

Joseph Grigely, associate professor of history of art, said that Affirmative Action is a “topic at the heart and soul of the University.” Grigely asked for someone “who’s going to think broadly about the topic and who will think very broadly about diversity.”

Shake Ketefian, professor of nursing, asked that the Regents “go after members of minority groups and women.”

Noah Barr, engineering student, said he’d “like to see a new dreamer come to campus.”

John Lehman, secretary of SACUA and the Senate Assembly, and professor of environmental health, shared the results of his review of past presidential searches at the Bentley Historical Library. Lehman said that in past searches, when the Regents invited an advisory committee, they didn’t focus merely on putting the committee together. They invited each committee to put forward a white paper. Lehman said, “This was an excellent practice.”

Paul Kileny, director of the academic program, Otorhinolaryngology Department, and professor of Otorhinolaryngology, said, “We need to look for someone who wants to stay here and leave a mark behind. Compensation shouldn’t be completely out of line.”

Silvia Pedraza, associate professor of sociology, suggested looking for someone who “cares about the quality of life for faculty.”

Tom Powell, professor of social work, said, “A lot of us just want the best possible person. It’s not possible to represent all stakeholders.”

Donald Brown, professor emeritus of psychology, asked the Regents to “search for a person committed to the life of the mind.”