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Originally published: 2013-10-15 20:30:55
Last modified: 2013-10-15 20:41:08

Committee pursues closed search for chancellor

by Anna Oakes

The Chancellor Search Committee on Tuesday voted to conduct a closed search for Appalachian State's new leader, which means no finalists will be made public except the one who is selected.

A majority of the committee voted in favor of the closed search process, with only three members voting against the motion: Andy Koch, Kellie Reed-Ashcraft and Chris Thaxton, who were appointed to represent the faculty.

Since current Chancellor Ken Peacock announced last spring he would be stepping down when a successor is named, the committee formed to solicit public input and evaluate candidates for the job. The committee will submit a final slate of three candidates to the ASU Board of Trustees for presentation to University of North Carolina system President Tom Ross, who will make the final decision on ASU's next chancellor as a recommendation to the UNC Board of Governors.

This summer, Ross and Ann Lemmon, UNC system associate vice president for human resources, strongly encouraged the committee to conduct a closed search to protect the confidentiality of the best candidates -- who may be employed elsewhere. James Baker, the consultant hired to aid in the search, echoed this sentiment on Tuesday.

"It is my strong recommendation that you keep this search as quiet as you can as long as you can," Baker said. "If the names are released early on, it would not be the result that you would like."

ASU's last chancellor search in 2003-04 was an open search in which the committee announced its semifinalists and hosted them on campus visits.

The committee discussed the possibility of a "hybrid" search in which the finalists or semi-finalists could visit campus and meet with a small group of faculty and staff leaders who would be asked to sign confidentiality agreements.

But proponents of a fully closed search said this would increase the risk of a confidentiality breach and could lead to the expressed preference of one candidate over the others. Ross has asked that the three finalists submitted to him be unranked.

"We cannot go through months and months and months of effort and then jeopardize the integrity of the process at the end," committee Chairman Mike Steinback said.

Other committee members said they had served on other search committees in the past and that their experiences led them to believe a closed search would be best.

Thaxton, who voted against the closed search, said he favored a search that would be more transparent and that could help alleviate the current tensions between faculty and administrators on campus.

"We can also use this as an opportunity to help heal this campus a bit," he said.

Koch noted that the Faculty Senate and Council of Chairs passed votes in favor of searches that remained closed until the three finalists were identified.

Stan Aeschleman, a faculty representative who was absent, communicated his opposition to a closed search to the committee and submitted information showing 19 searches conducted by peer institutions since 2002.

"Regardless of the type of search, the probability of hiring a sitting president is low," he wrote. "Only three of our 18 peer institutions hired a sitting chancellor/president, and two of those hires resulted from open searches. Clearly, a 'closed' search is not a necessary condition for hiring a sitting chancellor/president."

Steinback noted that two other committee members were absent and agreed to record their positions in the minutes.