The head of the Kent State Faculty Senate says his colleagues have expressed “disdain or disgust” with him for cooperating with KSU’s secretive search for president.
Computer science professor Paul Farrell told a Senate meeting in April that he has met friction over his role as one of 17 members of the search committee.
He himself was upset that the university’s selection of Beverly Warren, provost of Virginia Commonwealth University, violated university policy.
Her appointment “was very much at variance with what the University policy requires and with the wishes of Senate and the faculty, staff and students,” Farrell said, according to the April minutes of the Faculty Senate.
KSU’s secretive search has drawn criticism from the journalism and mass communication faculty, who ran a full-page ad in the KSU student newspaper this spring with the headline: “We’re embarrassed.”
Last week, the Faculty Senate rapped the administration’s knuckles for not following university policy that requires a Faculty Senate committee to meet and interview the finalists who were seeking to replace retiring President Lester Lefton.
Farrell told April’s Faculty Senate meeting that search committee members were hamstrung in their efforts to discuss the search because they were required to sign a seven-article “Code of Conduct” that forbade them from speaking publicly and required them to “respect the absolute confidentiality of all prospects and candidates.”
He said KSU violated university policy when it did not give the Senate’s Committee on Administrative Officers a chance to interview “no less than three or more than five” candidates for president.
Farrell said that search committee members in early December asked for “further references and information” on three to five semifinalists. They didn’t get the material and didn’t hear from trustees until about a month later.
With less than 24 hours’ notice, the Senate’s Committee on Administrative Officers was called to a special meeting to meet with one candidate — Warren — just 15 minutes before trustees voted to make her president.
The opportunity to “interview” only Warren was viewed as showing “disrespect to faculty,” Farrell said, according to the transcript of his comments before the Senate.
University spokesman Eric Mansfield did not return repeated requests for comment. He continually has refused to detail how the search committee spent at least $250,000 in taxpayer money on the search and has refused to provide receipts that would detail search-related expenses.
Math professor Donald White, vice chairman of the Faculty Senate, said in an email this week that faculty “would have preferred an open search ... in which each finalist visited campus, met with various constituencies, and participated in an open forum.”
That was the process the University of Akron and Youngstown State followed over the past few weeks in wrapping up their searches for new presidents.
White said that to the best of his knowledge, Warren met with only a limited group — the search committee, trustees and, at the last minute, the Senate committee — before she was hired. He called that unfortunate.
That could set her up for a wobbly relationship with faculty members who didn’t get a voice in her selection and feel her appointment didn’t follow university policy.
In emails from her current job in Virginia, Warren has refused to comment on the search process.
According to an October Senate resolution, secrecy shrouding the search for Lefton seven years ago cast a negative mood around his initial appointment.
It “made his transition into the position and acceptance by the faculty and staff a more complicated and time-consuming process.”
Warren takes over for Lefton on July 1.
Carol Biliczky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 330-996-3729.