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Originally published: 2013-10-03 09:45:44
Last modified: 2013-10-03 09:46:28

Our View: Dancing with the date you bring: Open job search at ASU

There's a school of thought that promotes closed interviews for executive positions: Some candidates may feel more free to explore a new job if their candidacy is not made public. This, in theory, can provide a better and wider pool of applicants.

But when it comes to a search for Appalachian State University's new chancellor, that theory is a harmful practice.

University of North Carolina system President Tom Ross promotes a fully closed search for ASU's next leader. He has advised the school's Chancellor Search Committee to conduct a process that would disclose no applicant to the public -- until a candidate is chosen and has accepted the position.
Even following several public forms designed to solicit input about the search process, Ross' recommendation is against the advisement of many ASU faculty and staff members.

And rightly so -- the culture of a university setting dictates a unique relationship between CEO and staff, and the well-being and future of the campus can be largely driven by that relationship. A blind date is no good beginning for such a marriage.

But more, a closed search should be against the advisement of our community and community leaders, as well.

ASU recently announced a peak enrollment number for the fall semester. With the most students now enrolled at any time in the school's history, that means the total number of students on the main campus is 16,424.

At no time in the history of either the university or our community has the town-and-gown relationship been more deserving of attention. Dramatically boosting the size of our mountain-bordered community when the university is in session can create both opportunities and challenges -- but opportunities and challenges that can only be addressed by a leader at ASU who is attuned to a forthright working relationship with that community.

A closed search is bad business in this situation.

We respect Ross' position, and while his advice may be sound for other communities, it is off the mark for ours. The six public forums recently conducted by the search committee are no substitute for a face-to-face meeting with the university's potential leaders.

ASU has had great success during the tenure of Chancellor Ken Peacock -- a chancellor chosen during an open search in 2003-04 when the committee announced its semifinalists. We see no reason to break with this tradition of securing leadership.

Indeed, we see great harm in doing so.