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Originally published: 2014-01-30 17:35:40
Last modified: 2014-01-30 17:35:40

ASU committee screens chancellor candidates

by Anna Oakes

The committee seeking the next leader of Appalachian State University is currently screening candidates for the position, a letter to the ASU community stated Wednesday.


The letter from committee and ASU board of trustees Chairman Michael Steinback noted that the committee has completed the planning and recruiting phases of the search process and is now screening candidates, with its final step to be the recommendation of three finalists to the board of trustees.


Current Chancellor Ken Peacock announced last spring that he would retire once a successor is chosen. The search committee, which includes ASU trustees, faculty, staff, community members and a student, formed in August. Steinback said last month that the committee hoped trustees would approve the submission of three finalists to UNC system President Tom Ross by mid-February.


Ross will then select ASU's chancellor from among the three candidates, who cannot be ranked by the committee or the trustees.


"Each committee member approaches this responsibility with great passion for our university and understands the significance this decision holds for the future of our community," Steinback wrote. "For this reason, we greatly value the input you shared during our campus forums and the recent survey."


The survey was administered in December, with 3,451 people responding. Priorities identified by the survey in some cases varied across respondent groups, including alumni, who represented 55 percent of the respondents; students, at 20 percent; faculty, 13 percent; staff, 10 percent; and 2 percent, other.


"Bear in mind that the relative sizes of the respondent groups can strongly affect overall values," said Bobby Sharp, director of institutional research and planning, in a Jan. 15 summary report.


Overall, survey respondents highlighted faculty and senior administrative experience at a university as the top qualities desired in the next chancellor, with private university, research and business experience ranking on the lower end of the list.


Respondents said preserving academic excellence, recruiting and retaining outstanding faculty and nurturing relationships with the local community should be top priorities for the next chancellor, while expanding online education and preserving athletic excellence received lower average scores. Faculty, staff and students ranked athletic excellence and online learning near the bottom of their lists, while alumni identified athletics as a mid-level priority.


The summary report and open-ended responses are available at http://chancellorsearch.appstate.edu/survey. In addition to the survey, the committee gathered input via six open forums held on the ASU campus last fall.


The committee faced criticism from faculty, students and others last fall when it elected to conduct a closed search for the new chancellor, meaning no finalists will be made public except the one who is selected. The process is a departure from ASU's last chancellor search in 2003-04 -- an open search in which the committee announced its semifinalists and hosted them on campus visits.


ASU's student newspaper, The Appalachian, on Jan. 16 published a front page editorial calling on the committee to reconsider its decision and allow university members to meet with finalists.