End of search draws closer

by Joel Sawyer

The veil of secrecy surrounding candidates for the next president of the University might be lifted this week.
Board of Regents Chairman Tom Reagan said Friday that a list of three to five finalists for the top post at the University could be announced as early as today. But the presidential search committee first has to forward the regents a list of remaining candidates.
Reagan said that when the regents receive the list of three to five names, they will review it, contact the candidates and determine the finalists. Any member of the public can nominate candidates for the position.
The pool of more than 200 candidates for the job had been narrowed down to eight by the search committee as of Friday. The committee was appointed by the regents in June.
The eight candidates have been interviewed by search committee members at confidential, off-campus sites and have undergone intensive background checks.
Although Reagan said that the search committee would forward the candidates’ names to the regents today, committee member David Taylor, dean of the University’s General College, said that was not a certainty.
“We may not come to a conclusion (today) on what candidates to forward,” he said.
Gerald Christenson, president of the search committee, agreed with Taylor. “We’re at the position where we need to talk about the candidates,” he said. “We have not had a full discussion of the credentials of the various candidates.”
Christenson said Reagan’s announcement that the committee might forward the list today surprised him, but added that it could happen today.
The announcement of the pool of potential finalists will end months of speculation about who on the secret list of candidates might succeed outgoing University President Nils Hasselmo, who plans to retire June 30, 1997.
“(Even) the board has no clue who these eight are that they’re reviewing right now,” Reagan said.
Reagan cautioned that the regents might not release the list on the day they receive it, even though he said they would like to do it as soon as possible. “The board chooses to make them public whenever they want,” Reagan said.
He said a premature announcement could destroy the confidentiality that he and committee members have sworn to keep. If the regents reveal the names too early, he said,”we might very well drive away some very good candidates.”
After the finalists are announced, they will undergo three days of open public interviews before the regents make their final decision Dec. 19 or 20 at a special meeting.
“Don’t hold us to that, a lot of things could happen,” Reagan said.
Although committee members have been tight-lipped about the pool of potential candidates, some information is known.
The names of two people who were nominated for the position and refused to apply have been revealed. Larry Faulkner, a provost at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, said he would not apply because of the University’s ongoing tenure battle and the financial troubles in the Academic Health Center. Jon Wefald, president of Kansas State University also declined to be a candidate for the job.
Reagan said that the University’s problems have not weakened the pool. “We’ve got some great candidates, I’ve been told,” he said.
The pool of candidates the regents receive could be expanded at any time if other quality candidates surfaced, Reagan said. “We’re just trying to get the best president possible at the University,” he said.