Members of the Keene State College community gathered in the Spaulding Gymnasium on Friday, March 30, to share their insight into what qualities they want to be considered in hiring a new president, emphasizing the need to hire someone who understands the shared governance that KSC currently prides itself in facilitating.
University System of New Hampshire Chancellor Edward MacKay hosted the Friday morning discussion to explain to KSC how an interim, and later permanent, president will be chosen and to ask for input. MacKay was joined by the Board of Trustees Chair Edward Dupont and Vice Chair Richard Galway.
According to MacKay, the USNH Board of Trustees intends to vote on an interim president during their next meeting, on April 19. He said the board will require full support for its candidate before selecting an interim.
MacKay said typically a search committee is formed to look for a permanent president, which he expects for KSC as well. This committee would create a candidate profile with the help of input from the college, announce the position in the fall, and begin searching and interviewing candidates.
“I am encouraged because I think we will have a great pool of candidates,” MacKay said. “The inquiries are already coming to me.”
MacKay stressed to those who attended that the Board is actively seeking input from the community and will take it into consideration.
Upon entering, all received a sheet of paper which discussed the importance of input from the KSC community and invited them to provide feedback through an online survey through April 2, which can be found at http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/WXC5PXL. An email with the same information was also sent out to MyKSC accounts for student input.
“We wanted to assure you that we’ll take the feedback you give today and address it relatively promptly,” MacKay said.
Although all feedback will be taken into consideration, MacKay said the Board alone will choose the interim president, due to time constraints. The selection committee for the permanent president will include members of the campus community.
Those in attendance were particularly interested in whether the interim president would be someone from within the college or someone hired from outside.
Several faculty and staff members stood up, advocating for an internal candidate, saying that at this time of uncertainty, the college could use the stability of someone from within who knows how it operates. The biggest concern about hiring internally was that it would open up yet another position within the college.
“I feel that there are strong people behind the leaders who can backfill,” Professor Ockle Johnson said of the possibility of another open position. Johnson is the chair of grievances and on the executive and negotiating committees for the Keene State College Education Association, the college’s union. He asked that the unions be included in the decision as well.
“I hope that as you make decisions you will formally reach out to the leaders on campus.”
MacKay and Dupont assured the group that both the interim and permanent presidents will be carefully selected to further the current values and goals of the college.
“One of the things we’ve done for the schools in the University System is to create a distinctive vision for each of the schools,” MacKay said. He added that each school intentionally has its own character, and the board will preserve that.
“We’ve got to have somebody who understands the campus culture,” Dupont said.
When discussing qualities to include on a candidate profile, junior Scott Riess expressed he would like to see a president who interacts more with students and is more involved in the daily activities in students, although many faculty had praised Giles-Gee for her visibility.
“I think that any president that you bring in really should have an improved visibility on campus and I think a lot of students only see President Giles-Gee once or twice a year,” Riess said.
He added that he was surprised seven years is an average term for a president, and that he’d like to see a president take a more vested interest in the school and stay longer.
“I would appreciate someone who could ensure that they’re not using this school as kind of a rung on a ladder to gain the next step and that they are really committed to being here and not changing again soon after that,” Riess said.
Questions were raised about the significant cuts in the University System’s state appropriations last year and whether or not this played into the resignation of Giles-Gee and Netzhammer.
“I question whether this is a coincidence,” education professor Trudy Reed said of their leaving “in the worst year in a long, long time.”
“I’d like to think it’s not about the challenges taking place in the legislature,” Dupont said.
MacKay noted that despite the budget cuts, University System schools have managed to operate as close to normal as possible, crediting this to the nature of the people working within the schools and their commitment to students.
Dupont stressed to the crowd that although the University System received large cuts, it was due to state-wide budget issues, not as a reflection on the schools themselves.
Patty Farmer, the director of alumni and parent relations, said she hopes the chancellor comes back to continue to talk to the KSC community as it goes through the process of selecting a new president. “I really don’t want the announcement of the interim to come in an email,” she said. “I challenge you to come back. I think it’s important we maintain this relationship, a personal one.”
MacKay said he hadn’t thought of the consequences of sending notice of the president’s resignation via email, and said he would consider that moving forward.
A few questioned the need for a provost, hoping that by cutting the office, more faculty jobs could be saved, though the crowd largely disagreed.
“I’m actually appalled that we would think about moving back to just having a vice president for academic affairs,” Paul Vincent, the chair of the Holocaust and genocide studies program, said.
“We have benefitted immensely from the provost position. We are an academic institution.”
Allie Bedell can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.