The Kent State University faculty union has joined others calling for an open search for the next president of the school.

A union statement released Friday follows one issued this week by a group of current and retired KSU journalism and mass communication faculty members calling for the school to commit to a “transparent search process” that allows for a “public assessment” of finalists.

The union — the KSU chapter of the American Association of University Professors — echoed that statement, calling for the university committee to be involved in a “pre-hiring assessment” of at least three finalists.

The union’s statement is the latest public admonition concerning the hunt to replace Beverly Warren, who will retire July 1.

If Kent State follows the same process it did in its last two presidential searches, the search 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.

The faculty union, in its Friday statement, asked the university to follow its policy regarding the search process for “major academic administrative officers.”

That policy says that the search committee “shall produce a slate of no fewer than three and no more than five acceptable candidates for the position.”

Additionally, the union says that university policy calls for a union committee to have the opportunity to interview three to five candidates for the position of president.

The union says the university has followed its policy when it comes to searches for deans, vice presidents and provosts, but has not done so “in recent past presidential searches.”

The union also says “it is our expectation” that the university “will not act to bypass Ohio’s Public Records Law” in its use of a search firm to assist in the search.

In 2014, the Beacon Journal made repeated requests for an accounting of Kent State's last search for a new president. 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.

In the 2018 Ohio Sunshine Law manual, the state attorney general advises that documents held by a search firm during the process are public.

However, Kent State, and other schools in Ohio, have not revealed such information, refusing to publicly name finalists and announcing the successful candidate after the search has been completed.

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

The search committee has not publicly outlined how the search will be conducted.

This month, KSU hired a search firm, Russell Reynolds Associates of New York, to assist in the presidential search. The company's proposal recommends a closed search.

The Akron Beacon Journal and Record-Courier have published editorials calling for an open search. Additionally, Frank LoMonte of the Brechner Center for Freedom of Information at the University of Florida, has argued for an open search in a commentary on the editorial page of each newspaper.

Dennis Hetzel, outgoing executive director of the Ohio News Media Association, also has called for an open process.

The University of Akron plans to 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.

 

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