What is going on at the Kansas University Medical Center? Why is it taking so long to hire a new executive vice chancellor for the center?
After several years of drifting, poor faculty morale and a lack of decisiveness or courage by KU leaders or the Kansas Board of Regents, Barbara Atkinson stepped aside (or was directed to step aside) last April as executive vice chancellor of the center as well as executive dean of the KU School of Medicine.
At first, she set a date later in the year to move out of her office, but for one reason or another, she departed much sooner.
At that time, school officials announced a search committee had been formed to put together a group of vice chancellor candidates. The search process was said to be exhaustive and thorough, and this group eventually was unanimous in forwarding the name of a single individual to the chancellor as its choice for this important position.
Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little rejected the name, saying she did not want to have just one candidate. She wanted two or three candidates from which to choose.
A new search effort was launched, and the committee recently announced town hall meetings later this month for faculty and staff to meet three finalists for the executive vice chancellor’s job.
Why has it taken so long and how has the school been harmed by allowing the drift, questioning and suspicion to continue?
At the time of the chancellor’s rejection, questions were raised about how her decision would be received by the single candidate, an active member of the School of Medicine. Would he want to be a candidate in the renewed search? Were there others within the school who should be considered, if not for the executive vice chancellor position, perhaps for executive dean?
If the search group has come up with out-of-state candidates, how long will it take one of them to step aside from a current position and make the move to Kansas City?
It was hoped the new executive vice chancellor would have been in place and on site long before now. Officials had expressed the desire to have an executive vice chancellor on the job before starting the search for an executive dean so that the vice chancellor could have a role in the hiring and the dean would know who his or her boss would be.
(It should be noted that this procedure is a vast improvement over other recent senior staff searches at KU. For example, KU officials elected to hire a new dean for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences before hiring the provost who would be that person’s boss.)
Is the previous choice of the search committee among the three finalists? Have search committee members found someone they think would do a better job? Or did they go back and reconsider some of the candidates they rejected before? Was the delay merely cosmetic to make it look like they conducted a totally new search effort?
It’s all a puzzle and doesn’t reflect well on the search effort.
What will be the reaction of the medical school staff if the first nominee turns out not to be the chancellor’s choice? He was, and continues to be, highly popular. In recent years, there was the belief among the school’s faculty that he should have been named dean of the school but Atkinson refused to vacate that position. This being the case, there was great concern among the faculty that this popular and highly respected individual would leave for one of the other attractive jobs being offered.
It is important for the two top Med Center positions to be filled as soon as possible, enabling officials to be in their offices and on the job.