It would be interesting, as well as informative and helpful, to know how much genuine interest there is within the national academic community in the current administrative vacancies at Kansas University.
Currently, search efforts are under way for a new provost and deans for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the new School of Music and the School of Law. These come at a time when Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little has just completed her first semester as the school’s leader.
The four openings all are important, and the quality and excellence of those selected to fill these positions can play a significant role in the future development of the university.
The provost runs the academic side of the university. The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences is the largest school at KU, with more than 17,000 students and 1,400 faculty members in more than 55 academic departments.
The law school is one of the most prestigious at KU, and its graduates play integral roles in most every Kansas community as well as in careers throughout the country.
The School of Music is new, after KU officials dissolved the School of Fine Arts, and it is important this program gets off to a good, strong start, led by a highly respected and talented individual.
These are extremely important and delicate times for the university with a new chancellor and openings for a provost and three deans.
This being the case, it is hoped there was, and is, great interest in these jobs. Have members of the various search committees found excitement, high levels of interest and many highly respective individuals seeking the openings? Or have they had to scratch hard to find candidates?
Does KU have the record, respect and national reputation to cause “heavyweights” at other nationally recognized universities to apply for the Mount Oread positions? Did search committee members have the difficult but pleasant challenge of having to eliminate many talented candidates to narrow the list and come up with three to four finalists for the jobs?
If not, why not?
It would be helpful for at least the members of the Kansas Board of Regents to know what search committee members encountered in their efforts. What about the reputation of the overall university and the particular openings? How about the reputation of KU’s new chancellor, her leadership and vision for the school and any significant actions she has taken? Was salary a serious factor? Was there concern about the level of state tax support for higher education in Kansas? Did living in Lawrence present problems? What were the positives and negatives of the KU positions? This same information would be valuable in search efforts at Kansas State and other state universities.
Four finalists for the Liberal Arts and Sciences position have been selected and made the rounds at KU, meeting students, faculty, administrators and others.
This brings up the question of whether the KU policy of being wide open in disclosing the names of finalists is a major negative in attracting highly successful individuals at other schools to apply for a KU job. Many believe the chances of attracting highly qualified candidates would be improved significantly if the job hunt and selection process were carried out behind closed doors.
Nevertheless, KU, at least at this time, will succeed, or fall short, under the current ground rules.
The four finalists for the College dean’s job are a dean from the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of South Dakota, an associate provost at Iowa State University, the chairman of the physics and astronomy department at Ohio University, and KU’s current interim LAS dean. Also the first candidate for the music deanship has been identified: the director of the school of music at the University of South Florida.
All of these candidates must be good. Otherwise members of the search committees would not have recommended them for the very important KU positions. At the same time, some current faculty members, as well as interested and concerned alumni, may be wondering why there are not candidates from universities that are looked upon as among the nation’s elite. Surely, there are rising stars at many of these schools who might be interested in a deanship at KU.
A number of educators wonder whether KU handicapped its search efforts by the sequence in which the searches and selections were scheduled. They suggest it would have been better to start with the provost’s position. This would have provided a yardstick for those considering entering the deans’ searches to gauge KU’s commitment to excellence, leadership and experience.
What has to be done or accomplished at KU to make academic and administrative openings on Mount Oread a matter that excites and enthuses top-flight faculty and administrators at other major universities?
It’s something like the KU basketball coaching position. It’s one of the nation’s top basketball jobs. Is this due to KU’s winning record, its level of fan support, the very high fiscal compensation, the academic reputation of the school or what?
It is known current coach Bill Self had his eye on the job for many years, including when he was coach at Illinois. He wanted the KU job.
How does KU develop the overall reputation and attractiveness so that when an opening occurs on the academic/administrative side of the university, it generates the same kind of excitement as a job opening for a KU basketball coach or in one of the other nationally recognized academic and research programs at KU?
With members of the Board of Regents responsible for the operation of the state universities — KU, K-State, Wichita, Emporia, Fort Hays, Pittsburg and the KU Medical Center — perhaps they might gain a better idea of the challenges, the pros and cons, of the schools if they were to hear what members of search committees learned from their efforts to attract talented and skilled faculty and administrators to those universities.
In most every endeavor, it’s the quality of people that makes the difference between average or excellent performance and results. Higher education is no exception.