Ithaca College AAUP Calls for Transparency, Principles of Shared Governance in Presidential Search Process

By Dan Breen, September 20, 2021

The Ithaca College chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) welcomes the September 17 announcement by the College Board of Trustees launching the search process for the College’s next president.

As the formation of the search committee gets underway, our AAUP chapter urges the adoption of the following principles in the constitution and conduct of the search.

1. The search should be announced as and should conclude as an open search.

By this we mean that it should be made clear the beginning of the search process that a short list of finalists will be made public; that the cvs and relevant application materials of each finalist will be made available to the campus community; and that each will be invited to campus for conversations with faculty, staff, students, alumni, and community members.  The search committee should then solicit input from each of these constituencies, and provide this input to the Board before an offer is made.

2. The College should conduct the search without the aid of a search firm.

Given the wide range of resources and skills that exist among the College’s staff, faculty, administration, students, and alumni, the degree of dependency on consultants that Ithaca College has developed over the last decade is genuinely surprising.  It is not clear why position searches at the appointment level of dean and above appear to necessitate the participation of search firms, while position searches below the level of dean almost never do. The most common explanation, that contracting with search firms is the current industry standard for such searches, is entirely circular and as such explains very little.

If the Board or the committee insists on contracting with a search firm, then we ask that the Board or committee consider a new direction in terms of which firm is used; that the Board or committee provide the campus community with a detailed explanation of its reasoning in deciding to contract with a firm; and that Faculty Council, Staff Council, SGC, and the Alumni Association be provided with an itemized invoice detailing all payments to the firm.

3. The members of the search committee should be elected to the committee, not appointed.

The Board, administration, faculty, staff, students, and alumni are all major constituencies with interest in the identification and appointment of a new president.  Each should be represented on the search committee, and the Board’s announcement on Sept. 17th indicates plainly that each will be represented.

We note, however, that while the process by which the Board members were selected for inclusion on the search committee is not stipulated, the other representatives appear not to have been elected to the committee specifically.  Many hold an elected position within a campus constituency, and seem to have been appointed on that basis; in addition, the two yet-to-be-determined faculty members will simply have been selected by the Board from a pool of five voted on by Faculty Council.

AAUP is committed to core principles of shared governance.  As such, in the selection of membership to a College-wide committee, each constituency must be permitted to determine its own representatives to that committee.

We urge the Board and the committee to adopt these principles, and we look forward to the search process.