The University Record, November 21, 1995

Brewer to Regents: pick president from academe, or else

By Rebecca A. Doyle

Select a president from academe and allow a faculty advisory committee to present the initial list of candidates or else . . .

That was the message George Brewer delivered to the Regents last week.

In order to recruit and retain faculty of the highest quality, Brewer said, the University must keep the faculty satisfied.

"The two keys to developing and maintaining a great University are first to recruit excellent faculty and second, to give the faculty an environment in which they have the opportunity to excel," Brewer said. Brewer, who is chair of the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs (SACUA), told Regents that the faculty were not as interested in money as they were in opportunity to develop and excel.

"Most of the faculty I know work a 60-hour week in order to get 20 hours into their scholarship," he continued. "We all know about diminishing resources, but here at Michigan it is as good as it gets anywhere."

The third key to maintaining an excellent faculty, Brewer said, is to have an administration that "accepts the faculty as a partner in charting the best course for the University."

He noted that school- or college-based faculty governance does not work well in most cases because, among other reasons, the governing faculty do not attend faculty meetings. As far as University wide governance is concerned, he said, in the past faculty had not been often enough consulted in administrative decisions.

"But I will say that the system now, the SACUA-Senate Assembly system and the communications back and forth with the administration, is working very well," Brewer said.

"Except for some repairs needed in school-based faculty governance, the environment here at Michigan is excellent for faculty."

"You are now charged to find a per-son to lead this University," Brewer continued, saying he would resist the temptation to give a David Letterman-like-top 10 list of qualifications for the next president of the University. "But I think I have told you nough about what's important here to help you realize that the president must come from an academic ba ckground.

"The person who would be president at Michigan must be grounded in scholarship, in teaching and research in order to appreciate what is special about Michigan's greatness and be able to preserve it."

Brewer told the Regents that, in his opinion, the faculty would not support a search conducted "entirely in the open." Such a search would "fail to turn up the kind of candidates needed to preserve this University's greatness," ; he said.

The Michigan Supreme Court ruled in 1993 that the Regents were guilty of violating the Open Meetings Act during the search that landed Duderstadt in the president's chair.

The Ann Arbor News, later joined by the Detroit Free Press, charged Regents violated the act and also sought disclosure of travel records under the Freedom of Information Act. The court found Regents also had violated that act.

SACUA has suggested a search procedure that Brewer says would not openly defy the Open Meetings Act but that would preserve the privacy of initial candidates, although he told Regents that it might be challenged. SACUA suggests that a faculty adv isory committee with student and alumni representatives conduct the initial search and provide a list of candidates from which the Regents could then conduct an open search.

"We are advised by the General Counsel that the suggested approach complies with the law, although, of course, it can't guarantee against a suit.

"We urge that the Regents to not be intimidated by the fear of a suit. You must do what is best for the University," Brewer said.

"If you do, the faculty will be with you. The faculty will accept nothing less than doing what's best for the University. And please don't take it for granted that the faculty are so passive and this place so big and so decentralized that t he faculty can't bite.

"We don't bite very often, but we have bitten before and we can bite again. If an unqualified president is rammed down our throats, and exhibits those lack of qualifications, Senate Assembly is fully capable of a vote of no confidence, which would be a disaster," Brewer said.

"Such events have happened at other universities," he cautioned.

Brewer concluded by saying he had great respect for each of the Regents, and that he had full confidence they would do a good job of working together as a team to choose a new president.

University General Counsel Elsa K. Cole spoke later during the meeting at the invitation of Regent Rebecca McGowan.

"In the General Counsel's office, we have not endorsed any particular approach regarding how to conduct the presidential search," Cole said, "nor have we examined in depth and subsequently issued any opinion regarding any particular procedures used in doing that search."

McGowan noted that it is important to remind the community that while the Regents are committed to doing what is best for the University and valued input from the community as well as faculty, "there is the law of the state of Michigan" and that "the Universe is not necessarily our blackboard at this time."

Regent Andrea Fischer Newman said that SACUA's and all faculty input is very important to the Regents.

"However," she said, "we are troubled with the tone in which a portion of your comments are delivered, especially in a communitywide search process. Threats are unnecessary and out of place. This board takes its responsibility very seriously and appreciates constructive comments which can and will add to the search process."