Kent State University will pay a search company at least $179,000 and expenses to help in the hunt for its next president.

KSU will pay the search company, Russell Reynolds Associates Inc. of New York, a $170,000 retainer and a $9,000 administrative charge, according to a contract between the two.

Additionally, the university will pay “other expenses,” such as travel costs of candidates and search company consultants.

KSU spent about $250,000 on its last presidential search, in 2014.

Last week, Kent State University's board of trustees officially established the national search for a successor to President Beverly Warren, who will retire July 1.

The university did not make the contract with the search firm available to the Beacon Journal at that time. The newspaper received a copy of the contract Thursday after filing a public records request.

Russell Reynolds Associates was one of 15 search companies that bid to help with the search.

Earlier this week, the university named a search committee that will work with Russell Reynolds Associates.

It also announced two public forums — one in Kent and the other in Jackson Township — on Friday, the last day of the fall semester.

The search committee is advisory to the trustees and is made up of faculty, trustees, students, administration, alumni and community representatives.

If Kent State follows the same process it did in its last two presidential searches, the committee's progress will be shielded from public view — an approach that has prompted criticism from advocates for transparency in taxpayer-supported institutions.

Both times, names of finalists were not released. Instead, the search committee brought the successful candidate to campus as a done deal, rather than inviting three or four finalists to appear at forums.

Critics have said public universities should reveal names of finalists rather than keeping the public in the dark.

University spokesman Eric Mansfield said this month that the search committee will determine how the search is conducted

Russell Reynolds Associates' bid proposal recommends a closed search.

It says, “Based on our vast experience, we have learned that many excellent candidates will refuse to be considered unless their confidentiality is guaranteed throughout the search.”

The proposal goes on to say, “Many candidates will be sitting presidents, provosts and deans who are actively recruiting faculty and actively raising funds.”

Critics of KSU’s last presidential search have said that at the least it went against the spirit of Ohio’s public records law.

The Beacon Journal made repeated requests for an accounting of Kent State's search for a new president in 2014. However, the university gave the search firm (Storbeck/Pimental and Associates of Media, Pa.) control over all records — including those that the newspaper argued should be public, such as travel receipts.

“As always, the university will continue to abide by all applicable laws while seeking outstanding candidates to serve as our university’s next president, ” Board Chair Ralph Della Ratta said in a news release last week.

The contract with Russell Reynolds Associates calls for KSU to pay a search fee equal to one-third of the hired candidate’s first-year total cash compensation, including salary and “any additional monetary inducements offered.”

The $170,000 retainer will be credited against the search fee.

In 2014, KSU hired Storbeck/Pimental and Associates of Media, Pa., for $161,000, plus expenses, to find candidates.

The University of Akron plans to soon hire a search firm to help with its hunt for a replacement for Interim President John Green.

UA trustees this month expanded the committee that will search for a new president, but took steps to close the process off from public view.

The new process no longer requires finalists to be brought to the campus to meet with various groups.

Previously, the search committee was made up of trustees. Now the search committee will include elected leaders of the Faculty Senate, the faculty union and the Undergraduate Student Government, among others. Members of the committee who are not trustees will have to to "sign pledges of confidentiality."

 

Katie Byard can be reached at 330-996-3781 or kbyard@thebeaconjournal.com. You can follow her at @KatieByardABJ on Twitter or Facebook.