Wright State has selected three finalists for its president’s job, but the search committee will not release the candidates’ names until they visit campus in February.
The names will be announced at noon the day before each finalist visits campus, said Doug Fecher, trustee and chair of the search committee. The three-day visits will take place from Feb. 2 to Feb. 4, Feb. 5 to Feb. 7 and Feb. 7 to Feb. 9, according to an email sent to students, faculty and staff Thursday.
“We’re trying to balance their need for privacy with our need to tell people who they are,” Fecher said.
Wright State received applications from 61 people with “really strong diversity,” a factor Fecher said is reflected in the trio of finalists. The number of applicants quelled concerns that Wright State’s budget issues and an ongoing federal investigation would hamper the number of quality candidates for the president’s job.
The presidential announcement contrasts another announcement of candidates for the chief diversity officer position, also made via email Thursday. The candidates for that job, WSU’s Edward Twyman and Matt Boaz, were revealed days before they will address the campus in open forums on Jan. 24 and Jan. 25.
When candidates apply at a public institution in Ohio, their applications become a public record. But, by using a private search firm, universities are able to keep that information out of the public eye.
The timing of the presidential announcements will not leave time for “much more than a Google search,” on the candidates, said Marty Kich, WSU AAUP president.
“That’s ridiculous,” Kich said. “Once these people have committed to coming to campus, I don’t see what the issue would be.”
Fecher understands Kich’s viewpoint, but he said Wright State would risk sacrificing quality candidates if names were released too early.
In many searches for college presidents, the names of candidates are never made public, said Tom Flannery, a managing partner of New York-based Boyden Global Executive Search. The names are often kept secret out of respect for the candidate who may not want their current place of employment knowing, Flannery said.
“We thought Wright State’s climate and culture would not accept an approach like that,” Fecher said.
Each finalist is a sitting president at another university, meaning Wright State’s next leader will not be an internal hire. Fecher said internal candidates applied but that the committee chose the three outside finalists based on their “tremendous records of accomplishment.”
“All three of them are kind of rising stars in the world of academic leadership,” Fecher said.
When the finalists visit, they will spend time at both the main campus and Lake Campus, where they will meet with students, staff, faculty and researchers.
Each candidate will also speak at multiple forums for students and faculty, which will be streamed live online. An online survey will be conducted to get feedback on each finalist, according to the email sent Thursday.
Wright State’s next leader will oversee more than 17,700 students and around 3,700 employees.
“Your voice and input are critical as we enter this stage of our search,” Fecher said in the Thursday email.
Finalists will also meet separately with Provost Tom Sudkamp and outgoing president David Hopkins, according to a visit schedule.
Hopkins will retire at the end of June, and the university has hired Academic Search, a Washington, D.C.-based search firm specializing in higher education, to find his successor. The firm’s services were estimated to cost WSU about $120,000.
The search committee whittled down the number of candidates to a dozen or so before doing a series of interviews narrowing the field to three. The board of trustees expects to name a new president sometime in April, Fecher has said.
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