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Candidate committee conundrum

Confidential hiring process raises concerns

As Humboldt State University’s president seat becomes vacant, a confidential selection process, along with a limited advisory committee, raises concerns about students’ input in deciding a new president.

“I understand the need to be confidential,” Associated Students Board Coordinator Casey Park said. “But I don’t see how you can fit 7,500 student voices into one student rep.”

Park is one of the many Associated Students members who attended a meeting with CSU Chancellor Timothy White and Vice Chancellor Loren Blanchard about a presidential candidate search process on Oct. 8 in the AS banquet hall.

HSU’s current president, Lisa Rossbacher, announced her retirement next summer in a campus-wide letter on Oct. 1. The letter states that the search process for a new president will begin this winter.

The CSU Board of Trustees’ policy for the selection of presidents explains that a committee of CSU Trustees, along with the advice and consultation of an advisory committee, will decide in confidentiality who HSU’s next president will be.

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CSU Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs Loren Blanchard and Chancellor Timothy White in the UC banquet hall on Oct. 8 at HSU. Blanchard is responding to one of the AS member’s questions. | Photo by Michael Weber

Of more than 20 representatives in the advisory committee, only one will be a student. Because the process is confidential, that student will be the only student who can directly affect recommendations for the new president.

While the AS gets to choose HSU’s student representative, Park is worried that the voice of all HSU students won’t be sufficiently represented by one person.

The only opportunity for those not in the advisory committee to have a say in the search process will be during an open forum in the first week of Feb. in 2019.

White says the forum will be video taped so that candidates will be able to see and hear what the community wants. After the forum, White said, they will create a ten page public document of search criteria and will invite candidates to apply.

During Monday’s meeting, White emphasized confidentiality in the search process and that candidates will be interviewed at an airport — the same as Rossbacher.

White’s argument for confidentiality is that external candidates (not working at HSU) may lose their job if they were seen applying to HSU. Without confidentiality, the committees may not be able to form a strong group of candidates.

“It’s not secret,” White said, “It’s confidential.”

Confidentiality in the search process hasn’t always been the case for CSUs, according to John Meyer, chair of the political science department.

Meyer said that in 2002, the year Rollin Richmond became HSU president, candidates delivered a speech to an open forum. People were able to meet candidates before they were selected and were able to get a feel of who they were by asking questions and giving comments.

This conversation between candidates and community was nonexistent during president Rossbacher’s selection. White said that it won’t happen again for the new candidates.

The confidentiality gives AS Executive Director Janessa Lund little confidence in HSU’s future leadership.

“With all the turnover [in HSU], we need a solid base,” Lund said. “[We have] a lack of consistency on campus leadership, which leads to uncertainty and insecurity.”

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