Trustees approve recommendations on Presidential Search Advisory Committee

Western Today staff

Western’s Board of Trustees on Aug. 20 approved a resolution – as part of the search for a new Western president – that addresses the role of the Presidential Search Advisory Committee, the scope of the search, criteria for search committee member selection, and the size, composition and selection process for the search committee.

WWU President Bruce Shepard announced in June 2015 that he will retire as Western president at the close of the 2015-2016 academic year. Shepard’s leadership for Western will continue over the next year. As part of a planned transition in leadership, a national search for the new president will be conducted over the next year by the university’s Board of Trustees.

Trustee Sue Sharpe, appointed July 20 by the Trustees as the chair of the search committee, said that she and Board of Trustees Chair Karen Lee have held a number of discussions with stakeholder groups to get feedback on the start of the search process.

“A significant part of the search process will be listening,” Sharpe said.

Goals of the search process include being as transparent and inclusionary as possible, and seeking input from faculty, staff, students, alumni and other friends and stakeholders of the university through a variety of ways, Sharpe said. The trustees are committed to a presidential search process that fully engages the Western campus community and other stakeholders with numerous and varied opportunities for involvement and participation, she said.

According to the resolution passed by the Trustees, the Presidential Search Advisory Committee will conduct a national search that offers the Board of Trustees the opportunity to consider a select group of highly qualified candidates with the qualifications and characteristics set forth in evaluation criteria established by the Trustees. Those qualifications and characteristics criteria will be based upon input received from faculty, staff, students, alumni and other constituencies and friends of the University.

Working in consultation with a search consultant to be selected by the search committee chair and Board of Trustees chair, the search committee’s role is to assist the Board of Trustees in conducting a search and screening process for the next WWU president.

A Request for Proposals for a search consultant has drawn 15 responses, and Sharpe said that she felt confident they would be able to hire a highly skilled consultant to assist in the search.

According to the resolution, the search committee's role is strictly advisory to the Board of Trustees. Following selection of the committee, the Trustees will issue specific instructions to the search committee outlining its specific responsibilities and the Trustees’ expectations with respect to carrying out those responsibilities

The resolution requires that members of the search committee meet the following general criteria:

  • Committed to the best interests of the University;
  • Respected by colleagues and co-workers;
  • Record of active engagement in University affairs;
  • Good judgment;
  • Ability to maintain strict confidentiality.

There was discussion among the trustees on the size of the committee, which was 13 in the original resolution. Sentiment was expressed about having equal numbers of faculty and students on the committee, and the resolution was amended to provide the search committee chair and chair of the Trustees with flexibility to add one or two more members if needed.

The size, composition and selection of the Search Committee will be as follows:

  • Trustees (3): Susan Sharpe (Search Committee chair), Chase Franklin, (vice chair) and Earl Overstreet. Board of Trustees Chair Karen Lee will serve ex-officio as a nonvoting member of the search committee.
  • Faculty Members (3): The Faculty Senate will be asked to place in nomination the names of eight to 10 faculty members who meet the above criteria.
  • Students (2): The Associated Students will be asked to place in nomination the names of six students, including at least two graduate students, who meet the above criteria.
  • Professional Staff (1): The Professional Staff Organization will be asked to place in nomination the names of four to five professional staff members who meet the above criteria.
  • Classified Staff (1): Representatives of the classified staff will be asked to solicit nominees and place in nomination the names of four to five classified staff employees who meet the above criteria.
  • Academic Administrator (1): The Board of Trustees chair and the search committee chair will select one member of the University’s academic administrative team to serve on the committee that meets the above criteria.
  • Community Members (2): The Board chair and the committee chair will select two members of the committee to represent the broader off-campus community of constituents including alumni and friends of Western consistent with the relevant above criteria.
  • Board Chair and Committee Chair may also appoint up to two more committee members.

Nomination invitations will be sent to the nominating bodies (Faculty Senate, Associated Students, etc.) no later than Sept. 1, 2015 outlining the specific criteria and process for nominations. Nominations made by the nominating bodies and the final search committee member appointments will be made reflecting Western’s commitment to diversity in all its forms.

The trustees also heard a presentation from former trustees Kevin Raymond and Phil Sharpe, who were actively involved in the search process in 2008 when President Shepard was hired. The former trustees said that Western’s reputation for excellent academics and many outstanding qualities will draw interest from highly qualified candidates.

“I am confident you will have outstanding candidates,” said Raymond.

A key to success, Phil Sharpe said, is to include search committee members who bring a “broad lens” to the search process and are without agendas, show mutual respect for each other’s views, and are committed to finding a president with the characteristics determined by Western’s campus community and stakeholders. He recommended committee members with the following traits: “soft elbows, keen minds, wide ears and laryngitis…”

The former trustees also both said that another key to a successful search was a transparent and inclusive process up to the point to when final candidates are being screened. At that point, they both agreed, open campus interviews of finalists would drive off many of the most qualified candidates – in many cases sitting presidents at other universities. They added that of the finalists for the WWU president opening when Bruce Shepard was hired, none would have agreed to open on-campus visits.

Monday, August 24, 2015 - 11:12am