The University Record, January 23, 1996
Regents visit Flint and Dearborn campuses, Detroit
Detroiters make suggestions on search process
Editor's Note: Record coverage of the Regents' presidential search forums on the Flint and Dearborn campuses is on pages 4 and 5.
By Jared Blank
Speakers at last Wednesday's Regents forum in Detroit echoed the sentiments of speakers at past presidential search forums: find a president from academia who will uphold the tenets of the Michigan Mandate. Fifty people attended the event at the St. Regis Hotel.
"The President is the personification of the University," said Avern L. Cohn, a federal judge in Detroit and 1949 alumnus of the Law School. "You should find a person who in combination has the leadership qualities, executive abilities and academic achievements of [former presidents] Harlan Hatcher, Robben Fleming and Harold Shapiro rolled into one."
Cohn stressed that the Regents must define their role in the leadership of the University. "You should adopt a set of principles which define your role and define the role of the president as the University's chief executive officer. Simply pointing to the by-laws is not enough."
He also suggested that the Regents remove themselves from the process of developing a "short list" of candidates, because the Open Meetings Act would preclude confidentiality for applicants. "Under the constitution your obligation is to select the president," he said. "There is nothing in that obligation that requires you to be a part of the search effort prior to the final phase."
"The University of Michigan may be at a crossroad, in view of some of the pressures it's taking, as to maintaining its greatness and enhancing its greatness," said Maurice S. Binkow, a lawyer and 1954 graduate of the U-M.
Binkow told the Regents that he felt that the search should begin by looking at candidates from outside the University. "I believe that an outside candidate will be turned off almost entirely if he believes there is a strong inside candidate, because of the Open Meetings Act, because of the threat of losing his job," he said. "Particularly at a school like Michigan where the last two presidents were picked from the inside, you will find that you will have disqualified yourself from a pool of outside candidates."
Geraldine Bledsoe Ford, 1948 alumna and Recorder's Court judge in Detroit, suggested the need to consider the moral and ethical aspects of leadership. "Most of us are in agreement in the fundamentals: we seek a creative person of high intellectual achievement, a visionary with a commitment to excellence, someone with an appreciation and understanding of Michigan's place in the universe.
"Some have spoken to you of morality, grace and ethics and a spiritual sense as necessary concomitants of leadership," she continued. "Those are among the paramount qualities which we need in a leader. Those qualities are always defined in very personal terms. We need a leader who has great skills as a conciliator, a person who will give us opportunity for all to be heard."
Ford concluded by quoting from the Athenian oath of citizenship given in ancient Greece: "We are confident that you will strive to transmit our University, not only not less, but greater, better and more beautiful than it was transmitted to us."
Glenora Collins, president of the African American Alumni Counsel, spoke of the necessity for a president who has shown leadership with diversity issues. "Sometimes we speak of diversity, and yet it is just lip service that is given," she said. "Society in the United States is changing, and when we as a University look toward the needs of setting up for the future, we must include everyone with that." Specifically, Collins said, the next president must continue the success of the Michigan Mandate.
She also stressed the need to look for an academician who will be accessible to alumni, understand fundraising and who will allow alumni to help in decision making.
Regent Nellie M. Varner said that the Regents hope to have a new president in place by the end of the year, and that an interim president most likely will be necessary.
The forum was attended by Regents Deane Baker, Daniel D. Horning, Shirley M. McFee, Andrea Fischer Newman, Phillip H. Power, and Varner. The event was moderated by David Bird, president of the U-M Club of Greater Detroit, and Althea Masterson, president of the Detroit Association of U-M Women.