Board of Trustees picks searching firm for permanent president, interim chancellor expected to be chosen by December meeting

By Claire Cowley and Kallie Cox, Staff Reporters

The Board of Trustees met this morning and picked the Witt/Kieffer executive search firm to help find a new permanent president for the SIU system.

This firm is unrelated to the one currently evaluating the Board and the system as a whole, Board Chairperson Amy Sholar said.

Interim President J. Kevin Dorsey said he has no intention of becoming permanent president.


The university needs a interim chancellor as soon as possible because of time concerns, followed by a permanent president, followed by the permanent search for a chancellor, Dorsey said.

“I think a potential chancellor who is wise would want to know who they’re working for and with,” Dorsey said. “That to me would dictate the order of events.”

Dorsey said what he’d be looking for in the next interim chancellor is someone who can be physically present on campus 24/7. The person should be experienced at or near the chancellor level.

Dorsey also said the candidate should be acceptable to faculty and students, be willing to serve, but is not a candidate for the permanent position.

“In my conversations with campus leadership [the candidate] should be someone that can unite, not only on this campus, but also in the entire system,” Dorsey said.

Dorsey also said the best case scenario would be to have a seating president by the start of the next academic year, no later than August of 2019.

“I think that that’s doable if everything works out right […] it’s a bit ambitious but I have every reason to think we can make it happen,” Dorsey said.


The Board of Trustees affirmed president Dorsey as acting chancellor until a interim chancellor is hired.

Clay Awsumb, graduate and professional student council president, said he encourages the trustees to ensure the next interim chancellor is equally committed to students experiences, needs, achievement, recognition, inclusion and partnership.

“Each of these elements centering our efforts on students as the measure and means to successfully improving SIU,” Awsumb said.

Awsumb also said academic success, graduation, retention rates, and enrollment is commonly a measure of success in student achievement.

“If students are too stressed  out, over worked, under-served, disrespected [or] unappreciated […] whatever it may be, then the needs of students go unmet,” Awsumb said. “We all fail […] the university leadership and its faculty.”

David Johnson, president of SIU faculty association, said before former chancellor Carlo Montemagno death, the restructuring plan was controversial and left us more or less stuck.

“Faculty do not know when or whether we will find ourselves voluntarily or involuntarily in a new school,” Johnson said. “Nor do we know what our college structure will look like.”

Johnson also said so SIU does not have interim leaders, we have a interim structure.

“We’re paying people tens of thousands of dollars to head units that could be eliminated at any time […] we’re a interim university facing a enrollment crisis,” Johnson said.  

Johnson said the faculty association is ready to end this confusion and conflict.

“But do not try to force new schools that students and faculty reject,” Johnson said. “Instead, support faculty alternatives, redesign our college structure to house the new schools in those departments.”

Johnson also said if this sounds like old advice, it is. And SIU can immediately put a end to uncertainty and contention.

“Simply, by wrapping up restructuring in positive, collaborative manner,” Johnson said. “We can turn together to face this enrollment crisis head on.”

Kathleen Chawlisz, a professor in counseling psychology and Anthony Travelstead, a civil service council member, said decisions about the reorganization could not be put off any longer, even if it meant including feedback from students and faculty.

Chawlisz said although the faculty senate thanks president Dorsey’s continued verbal support for the reorganization, it now needs support from the Board of Trustees.

“As a member of the reorganization committee, about a third of conclusions have been approved […] a third were rejected, but sent back for revisions,” Chawlisz said. “The faculty administration are working on that progress as we speak.”

Chawlisz also said there are a number of proposals that are faculty driven and are being developed as well noting the progress is ongoing.

“The faculty senate executive council recently boarded a resolution requesting a formal endorsement of the SIUC reorganization,” Chawlisz said.

Chawlisz said this endorsement is needed for the campus to seek how to move forward.

“Many faculty, staff and students have been waiting for months, anxious to get started working on building relationships and actualizing the possibilities of the new schools,” Chawlisz said.

After over four hours of closed session, the board decided on using the Witt/Kieffer executive search firm to choose the next chancellor.

When asked how important student input would be in the search for a new chancellor, Dorsey said it would play a role in the search for a permanent chancellor but not an interim.

“I think we need input,” Dorsey said. “But I don’t think we can run an interim search like a permanent search. We can’t parade an individual around for opinions.”

The Board of Trustees will have a new interim chancellor at the earliest by their next scheduled meeting Dec. 13.

Staff reporter Claire Cowley can be reached at

Staff reporter Kallie Cox can be reached at or on Twitter at @KallieC45439038.

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