Committee takes search to university community

By Karsten Burgstahler

The hunt for a successor to university President Glenn Poshard has gone public.

After Thursday’s Board of Trustees meeting, the Presidential Search Advisory Committee — led by Trustees Donna Manering and Shirley Portwood and consisting of 21 people representing both the university and surrounding towns — sponsored an open forum to hear the opinions of the public about what they’d like to see in the new president. The meeting comes just weeks after a survey was distributed across the university system asking for opinions on the same topic. The results of that survey were presented during an open session.

Manering said 4,270 community members responded and 3,821 completed the survey, about 10 percent of the polled population. More students than teachers responded, she said.


Manering said many of the responses followed expected notions of a president: a good leader, someone with good people skills and can deal with politics, as well as someone interested in academics and research, Manering said.

The open forum, held prior to the committee’s open session, was meant to be a place for students and staff to express their desires for the search, Trustee Chairman Randal Thomas said.

“It’s just an opportunity for all of us to hear from these constituency groups, and an opportunity for us to get a closer picture,” Thomas said.

During the forum several faculty and administration members gave their notion of an ideal candidate, although the opinions took some coercion from Manering and Portwood. Having community members get up in front of the board rather than speak from their seats was brought up as a potential problem. Committee Member and Undergraduate Student Government President Adrian Miller said the forum’s setup might have been a problem.

“Whenever we told (people) about the set up of the forum, we made remarks about having copy of remarks and having those sent in,” he said. “I think that intimidated some people to say “oh, well, I wasn’t prepared so I shouldn’t go up.”

However, those who did speak focused on mainly on two topics: the need for a president to understand Springfield politics and the need to unify the two campuses. Susan Yager, professor of Computer Management and Information Systems at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, said it is important the president know how to fundraise with the state, even as the percentage of appropriations shrinks or stays flat.

“President Poshard has been an outstanding advocate for the SIU system and has worked extremely well with the legislature,” she said. “If we could clone that capability, that would be lovely. Let’s try to do that.”


Dave Heth, director of financial affairs at SIUE, seconded Yager’s notion of a president who knows politics.

“I think the president has to know his or her way around Springfield,” he said. “Susan (Yager) talked about the money we get from Springfield, and…President Poshard was successful in helping maintain pharmacy funding here on campus for this year, it was cut at one time.”

Yager also said the new president must work to end any bad feelings between the two campuses.

“We get a good synergy with that difference (between the two campuses),” she said. “But sometimes we feel like, or I feel like, the green-headed stepchild.”

Yager pointed to the web addresses for the two schools as an example of division. Southern Illinois University Carbondale holds, while SIUE holds, she said.

Alexa Hillary, SIUE student body president, said she would also like to see SIUE maintain its own identity.

“(I’d like to see) an understanding that there is more than one SIU…It is very frustrating, I know, to students on this campus whenever they’re like “oh, I go to SIU” and then people just think that they went to Carbondale rather than Edwardsville, and that’s kind of frustrating from a student standpoint.”

SIUE Associate Professor of Nursing Rhonda Comrie said it is important whoever is elected understands the distinct values and cultures of the southern Illinois region.

“I encourage the committee to also look toward persons who can understand the differences of being in the southern Illinois cultures…those differences are quite marked when it comes to the actual implementation, recruitment, retention and movement of students through our programs.”

As for the search process, Thomas said the committee is moving along on schedule.

“(Search Firm Consultant Bill Funk) is here, and he feels that the timetable we established is aggressive but very very doable,” he said.

Manering said the committee would like to name a new president by April or May to provide time for the transitional process before Poshard leaves office.

The next search committee public forum will take place at 11:30 a.m. after the December 12 Board of Trustees meeting in Carbondale.

Karsten Burgstahler can be reached at [email protected] or 536-3311 ext. 261.