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Faculty request more input in choosing University executives

By Peter Shahin, Daily Staff Reporter
Published November 20, 2012

The University’s Senate Assembly Committee on University Affairs passed a resolution on Monday calling for more non-administration faculty on search committees for the University’s executive officers.

The Senate Assembly is the representative body of all regular faculty members on campus, and the primary advocate for faculty concerns and issues. Though the resolution, authored by Scott Masten, a Business professor and SACUA member, carries no official weight, it demonstrates a growing desire among faculty for increased non-administration involvement in the hiring of the successors of University President Mary Sue Coleman and other executive officers. Coleman’s contract is set to expire in 2014, and a search for her replacement will likely begin soon.

“We urge that search committees for executive officers and, particularly, the search committee for the University's next president, include representatives of the Faculty Senate chosen from a list of names selected by SACUA and approved by Senate Assembly,” the resolution read.

According to Masten, the recent search for the University’s new general counsel, Timothy Lynch, did not include any non-administration faculty. The resolution is meant to reaffirm and reinforce the University’s tradition of including non-executive members of the faculty on search committees for various positions.

“Unlike the last time there was a search for general counsel, it didn’t include any representatives from the official faculty bodies,” Masten said. “This resolution was just to encourage the administration and the (Board of Regents) to include those faculty in the future.”

Masten was cautious not to criticize the actions of the search committee and said the focus of the resolution was simply to broaden the inclusiveness of future search committees for executive positions. He added he didn’t think the exclusion of non-administration faculty was a conscious decision by the administration, but that the resolution expressed faculty concerns regardless.

“We think that generally the administration probably wants to have faculty opinions,” Masten said. “These are important positions, they will be interacting with faculty while they’re here and the faculty have a long-term interest in the success of the University.”

At the next SACUA meeting, Masten said the group will meet separately with University Provost Philip Hanlon and Coleman, noting it is possible that the resolution will be discussed with the officials.

Kimberlee Kearfott, the SACUA chair and an Engineering professor, said the group’s primary objective in passing the resolution was to ensure faculty were included in the search committee for the next University president, but the motion fully extended to search committees for other executive officers as well.

Kearfott emphasized that the resolution was not meant to rush the selection process, praising Coleman’s tenure as University president.

“(Coleman) is not a lame duck president and has several initiatives that she’s putting forward,” Kearfott said. “It’s not appropriate for me to be speculating on a search committee … We have an active president with a very healthy relationship with faculty governance.”

Inclusion of students on search committees for University executive officers was another change that Kearfott said she would personally like to see in the future.

“I’ve had no one ever say (to me) they were resistant to such an idea,” Kearfott said.

Both Masten and Kearfott said they had not received a response to the resolution from the University’s administration. Kearfott said it is likely that the next SACUA meeting will focus partially on athletics, particularly in light of the recent expansion of the Big Ten conference to include the University of Maryland and Rutgers University.


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