In their searches for their institutions’ next leaders, governing boards at public colleges have the task of both attracting the best candidates and keeping the public in the know. And that can often be a game of tug-of-war.
College leaders and trustees say confidentiality is key because open searches deter quality candidates. Many faculty, students, and others who are open-government advocates say that it’s their democratic right to be part of the process and that openness inspires confidence in the choice of leader.
The debate over the presidential search process is re-emerging in many states. In Louisiana two lawsuits have challenged the way the state’s flagship university conducted its most-recent search. The suits, brought by a student journalist and two newspapers, argue that Louisiana State University violated the state’s public-records law by withholding the names of candidates for its top job. In other states, like Wyoming and Tennessee, legislatures have grappled with whether to alter public-records laws to make university searches open or closed.
At the same time, more and more universities are finding ways to make their searches for top leaders increasingly confidential.
The number of closed searches at public institutions has steadily grown over the past two decades, says Jan Greenwood, a search consultant for Greenwood/Asher and Associates, Inc. <Read more.>