Ithaca College AAUP Requests Transparency in Launch of Presidential Search

By Dan Breen, October 7, 2021

The Presidential Search Committee (PSC) announced the completion of the membership of the committee and the formal launch of the presidential search on October 6.  There is a great deal about this announcement that, in the view of the Ithaca College chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), is cause for serious procedural concern.

Our concerns are as follows:

1. The Board of Trustees has rejected a number of AAUP and Faculty Council recommendations that were made in the spirit of shared governance.

On September 20, the Ithaca College AAUP issued a statement recommending that all campus constituencies represented on the PSC be allowed to elect their representatives.  On the following day, Faculty Council passed a motion making similar recommendations:  that faculty representation on the PSC be expanded to include one faculty representative from each of the five schools as well as the library, and that these representatives be voted on by their respective constituencies.

The Board of Trustees rejected these recommendations, and has yet to explain publicly the process through which it completed the membership of the PSC.

2. The PSC announcement indicated that the search will be conducted in collaboration with a search firm.

On September 20, AAUP recommended that a search firm not be used.  Search firms are expensive, they have been linked to a tendency to run closed rather than open searches, and it is not clear that searches conducted with the aid of a search firm necessarily produce better outcomes than searches conducted by institutions themselves.  We therefore reiterate our request from our September 20 statement that “the Board or PSC 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. Neither the Board nor the PSC has stated publicly whether the search will be open or closed.

The PSC announcement makes no reference to the status of the process as a whole, indicating only that the composition of a position profile will begin next week through an “inclusive process” that will feature “listening sessions” open to IC constituencies.  It is vital to the cultivation of trust among all IC constituencies that the search be open rather than closed.  As we mentioned in our September 20 statement, according to AAUP guidelines an open search is one in which “it should be made clear at 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.”

While the Board of Trustees is responsible for the selection of the next president, the search process is an optimal moment for the College to model a commitment to principles of shared governance by identifying ways in which all College constituencies can contribute meaningfully and deliberately.  This includes incorporating constituent feedback or recommendations on the nature of the process itself.  We urge the Board and the PSC to recommit to these principles.