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A public presidential search benefits candidates, not just MU community

The following piece, written by the editorial editors, reflects the majority opinion of the editorial board.

Earlier this semester, Miami's American Association of University Professors (AAUP) laid at the feet of the Board of Trustees a petition, signed by 143 members, calling for the board to bring at least two presidential candidates to campus for public forums and evaluation. Last Friday, they answered with disregard.

The presidential search is to be kept secret, conducted behind closed doors among the Board of Trustees and Isaacson, Miller - a distant executive search committee hired by Miami. Students and faculty will have little to no say in who becomes the next face of the university.

"Students and faculty should say it is unacceptable for the community to be presented with a single candidate. All that is is a pronouncement. It's bad public policy. Period."

James Finkelstein's quote sheds light on a disturbing disparity - that the board's obtuse decision to neglect the AAUP's petition and keep the search secret represents its lack of regard for Miami's students and faculty.

What little say that faculty and students do have will come in the form of an unidentified search committee made up of a trustee, the chair of the Miami University Foundation board, three faculty members, an undergraduate student, a senior administrator and an alumnus.

One undergraduate. The Board of Trustees needs to explain how one undergraduate is representative of Miami University's student body as a whole. Will students get to elect their representative? How much influence will the undergraduate have over other committee members?

Any committee seeking undergraduate input should have students from ASG, Greek life and the regional campuses. The students should be diverse in race and gender and represent multiple academic departments.

If the search is going to be private, at the least, students should have a larger panel, with representatives from different departments recommended by faculty.

There is a cosmic disconnect between the trustees, whose primary concern is Miami's image, and the students who spend four years of their lives here. The president should be the face of the university that students can relate to, not the face of the university that parents and donors find attractive. College is about the students and the student experience.

The singular talking point behind the board's decision revolves around protecting any potential candidate's current job.

"I mean, people have lost their jobs because it's been disclosed that they were looking at another school," said Claire Wagner, director of university communications.

This is an unacceptable excuse. The candidates should see this job as a position well worth the risk. If they aren't willing to toss their name in the hat, how badly do they really want it?

In the past, Miami has brought finalists for dean positions and held open forums for provost. If other selections are public, why not the president?

It is imperative that any finalists interact with the campus. Miami has a unique feeling that a search committee, or even the trustees, won't be able to convey as well as students and faculty.

Just as prospective students make multiple college visits before they choose a school, prospective presidents need to visit first to find out if this is the best fit for them. Candidates need an experience with the Miami community just as much as faculty and students need an experience with the candidates.