Trustees debate search firm policy

SIU’s Board of Trustees discussed and later approved a policy during its Thursday meeting that mandates the use of search firms to select new university chancellors and presidents.

Illinois passed legislature July 16 that requires state universities to have a search firm procurement policy by Jan. 1, 2013, said Duane Stucky, vice president for financial and administrative affairs  and board treasurer. However, several trustees dissented the policy.

“A search firm provides a more cost-effective use of university resources,” Stucky said.

He said the search firms would be restricted to the chancellor and president selection except under special circumstances. Exceptions could include positions that require a highly specialized candidate, he said.

Firms could also provide selection process expertise the university needs and help diversify candidate pools, he said.

Trustee Roger Herrin said the university made changes to the mandated policy. The university’s policy would allow SIU President Glenn Poshard to retain a search committee, Herrin said, and he would not agree to the policy unless Poshard presented his findings to the board first.

“I cannot support (search firm selection) without it coming back to the Board of Trustees,” he said.

David Hamilton, SIU-Edwardsville’s student trustee, said the board should be notified before the president makes a decision.

“If several years from now there is a situation and the board has a problem with (the selection process), we are at least notified in time to make a change,” he said.

Hamilton said while he thought the board should be notified if issues arise, he didn’t think it needed to vote on the president’s decision.

Ed Hightower, BOT vice-chair, said the board’s attorney was consulted about the policy, and it is in compliance with the state’s policy. The universities have done an excellent job of communicating with the BOT, he said.

“I don’t want (the issue) looked upon in any way, shape or form like ‘this is not done,’” he said. “The chancellors at both campuses do an outstanding job of communicating. The president has made a point to do so likewise.”

Hightower said any policy-related issue should have been brought up before the meeting. He said the trustees discussed policy changes during an open meeting Nov. 7.

“There’s an appropriate way to (ask for modifications),” he said. “That’s what we as trustees should strive to do. This is not the forum to (discuss changes). We’re not going to do so. We will follow the protocol.”

Herrin was the only trustee who voted against the policy.

Jeffrey McLellan, the university’s general counsel, said the policy follows the Southern Illinois University Management Act’s language, which governs the university’s BOT.

“The approval of the president would be necessary for the search firm,” he said. “The (firm) has to meet specific criteria.”

Poshard said the university has had several instances where an internal search committee has found candidates without a search firm’s aid.

“Chancellor Cheng came to us by way of an internal search committee, without a search firm,” he said. “We thought that was a good decision.”

Poshard said search firm use would be on a case-by-case basis.

“We just have to evaluate the situation and make a determination,” he said. “We’re certainly not just going to go out willy-nilly and spend money that we don’t think we have to spend.”

Hightower said the trustees stand behind Poshard.

“We hire a president, and we believe in a president,” he said. “The president communicates with the board on a regular basis.”

He said the administration adheres to policies the board sets forth.

“It’s obvious that all trustees overall, with the possible exception of Mr. Herrin, who raised this question and continues to do so, believe in the president and (that) he’s following the policy,” Hightower said. “We have no issues with our president.”

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About Karsten Burgstahler

Karsten Burgstahler can be reached at kburgstahler@dailyegyptian.com or 536-3311 ext.255.

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