Thursday, November 15, 2012

EKU Search Committee Lawyers Up

Second Faculty Member Added to Search Committee 

Moberly in Campaign Mode

Was anyone else surprised to learn that the EKU Presidential Search and Screening Committee hired outside legal council to advise on how information about the search might be kept confidential? One wonders how this squares with the Regents oft repeated promise of an open process.

One might argue that outside legal counsel is a good idea since recent internal advice proved to be suspect. No sooner had the Regents promised an open process than - on advice - they refused to name the companies that submitted proposals to become EKU's search firm - perfectly legal, and unnecessarily secretive.

The Eastern Progress reported that Luke Morgan, an associate with McBrayer law firm in Lexington and legal adviser for the committee, presented several open records and open meetings guidelines for the search process. Morgan said at least six members of the committee would constitute a quorum, thus making it a committee meeting.
“You’re free to meet wherever you want without fear if you’re in violation of open records laws,” Morgan said. “But if you do get together do not take affirmative action.”
Unless search committees have specific exemptions in the Open Meetings law, that sounds like more bad advice to me. The Attorney General's office did not immediately return a call to KSN&C for confirmation.

Pressley Named to Search Committee

On another front, Regent's Chair Gary Abney changed course today and added Faculty Senate Chair Sheila Pressley to the Search Committee, bringing the total faculty representatives to two.

Veteran faculty members had complained that the search committee membership, which historically included four or five members of the faculty, was limited to only one this time around. They argued that significant faculty involvement was crucial to the new president's success.

The Faculty Senate and Chairs Association wrote a joint letter to Abney expressing "deep concern" and asking for his reconsideration. In return they received a rejection and more promises for an open process and assurances of the Regent's strong commitment to shared governance. In Abney's explanation, the existence of a Faculty Senate, Student Government and Staff Council, along with several committees, were sufficient evidence of the Regents' commitment to the principle.

Quietly at the center of the controversy was Faculty Regent Malcom Frisbee, the lone faculty member on the search committee. He seemed to enjoy a generalized support from the faculty but there was also a sense that broader representation was needed. Abney underscored the trust and respect Frisbee enjoys among the faculty, and that he can represent faculty viewpoints. Of course he can also be out-voted by the other members on the committee and his only recourse will be...nothing.

The addition of Pressley is seen as a compromise move and was more than skeptical faculty members expected.

Pressley's appointment comes after a 2-day round of meetings between Academic Search representatives and The Chairs, Faculty Senate Executive Committee, students, the public and more. Following last night's meeting Abney acknowledged the faculty's concerns and extended the invitation to Pressley.

A petition which has been circulating among faculty this week called out the process for its potential to undermine shared governance and tarnish the institution in the eyes of potential candidates. The petition asks for the addition of a member from the Faculty Senate (check), the Chairs, the Deans and another member at large. No doubt, Abney knew the petition was on the way. Some see Pressley's appointment as a preemptive move.

Harry Goes Off

In the harshest comments to date, former state legislator Harry Moberly - to whom Madison County owes much (but perhaps not the EKU presidency) - told last night's community forum that EKU “has not been managed efficiently for many years” and needs “a change agent” as its next president.

Moberly said the next president would find the school possesses many assets and “unlimited potential” but that it also ranks “very low” in all performance indicators tracked by CPE. He said EKU has not recruited properly, which has led to tuition increases; that EKU has not been a good steward of its resources, has silo-based budgeting instead of strategic budgeting, and for good measure, blamed the Faculty Regent and Staff Regents for not doing "a thing about it."

Moberly's interest in the presidency has been rumored on campus at least since2007 when I arrived. Some on the faculty have wondered if "the fix is in" and the national search process will ultimately discover the best candidate right here in Richmond. This point was addressed directly by
Academic Search Senior Consultant Jim Appleberry who has  repeatedly worked to dispel the rumor and pass along Chairperson Abney's assurance that no candidate has been given the inside track.


Anonymous said...

I like Mr. Moberly, but he is not my idea of a "change agent" as much as a vestiture of the political past.

Not sure how he can publically lambast regents about "financial silos" when it really isn't their responsibility to operationally oversee the day to day workings of the institution. Eqully, as vice president of the university for a couple of years, it would seem that he could have influenced this change that he criticizes others for not accomplishing.

Finally, if he was VP, why did he retire if there were aspirations for this position? What folks need to understand is that as much as the president can set the goals and tone of the university, it is the provost who actually implements and addresses the actually day to day operational aspects of the university. That position is just as significant and influencial when addressing "change" as that of the president.

Anonymous said...

I think the tone of the faculty says a lot about the "challenges" which a new president is going to face. There is a obvious lack of trust in the process and some of the folks heading it up. I am not sure why anyone creating this search committee would ever not consider greater faculty and staff involvement. It seems that we need to move toward a more collaborative and mutually engage relationship between faculty and administration as opposed to the hierarchical based system we seem to have which does represent the silo mentality which Mr. Moberly mentions in an operational sense.