A committee began meeting Thursday to search for University President Nils Hasselmo’s successor, but some question arose as to whether the group can adequately represent the interests of the entire University community.
University students, faculty members and top officials have expressed concern about whether enough faculty, student, female and minority voices are on the presidential search committee. Two of the 11 committee members are women and one is a person of color.
Thursday’s meeting was held almost exactly one year before Hasselmo plans to resign. Former chancellor of the Minnesota Community College System Gerald Christenson was appointed Wednesday as the chairman of the search committee.
Nancy Barcelo, associate vice president for Minority and Diversity Affairs, said it is difficult to form a committee everyone will like. “It is never as diverse as anyone wants it to be,” said Barcelo, who was involved in the University of Iowa’s search for a president last year. “There is an attempt to include diversity. What is enough is always a question.”
Faculty Senate members issued a statement in May expressing their opposition to the way the presidential search process has been planned. According to the statement, a lack of student and faculty voices on the search committee will convey to a new president that academic values and leadership are not important. In 1988, when Hasselmo was hired, the committee consisted of 21 members, 12 of whom were faculty.
Of this committee’s 11 members, University faculty have three representatives. Each of the following have one representative: the Legislature, state labor unions, the University Alumni Association, the University Foundation Board, the Minnesota Business Partnership, the University deans, and the University student government.
The regents who chose the committee members, Wendell Anderson, Jean Keffeler and Stanley Sahlstrom, could not be reached for comment. The full board approved the committee June 14.
Incoming Faculty Consultative Committee Chairwoman Virginia Gray said she would like to see the new president come from academia. She added it’s important to have faculty voices in the process. “If you are looking for an academic leader, academics are the ones that can find them and bring them here.”
Minnesota Student Association members want a pro-student president. MSA President Helen Phin said that although she would prefer to see more than one student appointed to the committee, it is still important that students remain active in the search process. “It is really important to keep open communication lines with committee members.”
Phin added that the search committee’s composition isn’t gender balanced. “The fact that only two women are on the committee when more women were nominated is disturbing.”
Out of 31 committee nominees, 13 are women.
Regent Hyon Kim expressed a similar concern when the committee was first announced at the June regents meeting. “The only way to gain voice and to change the system is to have more people voice concerns,” Kim said, referring to the need for underrepresented groups to participate in the process.
Despite a lack of female and minority members, Kim said she is confident all presidential candidates will be considered equally. Regents will ultimately decide who will be the next president, she added, but it is up to the search committee to find female and minority candidates.
Overall, Kim said, she would like to see more women and minorities in upper administrative positions.
Twelve out of 42, or 28 percent, of upper administrative positions are filled by females or minorities, according to the Office for the Associate Vice President of Human Resources. Currently, only one Big Ten university has a woman as its chief administrator.
Barcelo came to the University three months after Mary Sue Coleman was chosen as the first female president at the University of Iowa. Barcelo helped interview presidential candidates and said three of the four finalists were women.
All 22 members of the Iowa search committee had a University of Iowa affiliation. Most of the committee members were faculty and students; 11 were women.
Barcelo said it is important to find a quality president regardless of his or her race, gender, or other personal characteristics.
When universities are looking for candidates they often solicit recommendations internally and from organizations such as the American Council on Education, Barcelo said. “If I am invited to submit names, you bet I will submit names,” Barcelo said, but she declined to elaborate on whom she would recommend.
Barcelo said the search process has not evolved far enough for her to make recommendations, but she has some female candidates in mind.
The advisory search committee will compile a list of three to five finalists, which will be submitted to the regents for final consideration by November.