Two-day presidential search meeting concludes

Emma Collins

The search for WKU’s next president continued in Nashville, Tennessee, when members of the Board of Regents met over a two-day period to interview the four remaining candidates.

The Regents were joined by members of Isaacson, Miller Inc., the search firm hired to help attract and consider candidates. The interviews were held in closed session in the Loews Vanderbilt Hotel’s Neely Room. The Neely Room is located on the second floor of the hotel, and none of the candidates were seen entering or exiting the room where the interviews were held.

Presidential Search Committee Chair and Regent Phillip Bale described the two-day meeting as “intensive, but very good.” He said the board was able to gain a better understanding about each of the candidates who are still vying to replace current President Gary Ransdell when he retires this June.

“We got to know each of the candidates in a much deeper way,” Bale said.

Bale said the diversity and quality of the candidates has not been greatly affected despite significantly narrowing down the list of contending individuals. He said the group remains diverse both in fields of expertise and gender.

“All of the candidates left standing are highly qualified, and, in my opinion, will be president of a university in the near future,” Bale said.

A decision on who will be the next university president was not reached at the end of the two-day meeting. Board Chair Frederick Higdon said no formal action was taken by the board, and Bale said the board needs to continue looking into each of the remaining candidates.

“We will be doing more due diligence and reference work over the next several weeks and there will be on going conversations,” Bale said.

The board also has yet to discuss or vote on whether to close the search and keep the names of the candidates confidential. If the board decides to close the search, only the name of the new president will be released once a final decision is made.

Student Regent Jay Todd Richey said many of the candidates value confidentiality and would prefer to remain unknown to the WKU community.

“Many of the candidates don’t want to risk jeopardizing the position they hold with taking a new opportunity,” Richey said.

Bale said the university has been able to attract and retain a number of high-caliber candidates because the search has been closed thus far. Without the guarantee of confidentiality, many of the past and current applicants would not have applied for the position.

“Many of these people have high position jobs in other places; many of them are involved in fundraising in other places that could be adversely impacted if their name was made public and people where they are [now] knew they were interested in something else,” Bale said.

Bale said Isaacson, Miller Inc. made it clear they believe a closed search is the best option; however, he said all of the search firms WKU considered employing also preferred a closed search.

The university community has been involved in some aspects of the presidential search. Bale said seven forums were held so faculty, staff and students could have a chance to discuss desirable qualities for the new president.

Members of the WKU community also served on the search committee that narrowed down the applicant list before it was presented to the board for consideration.

“Over 42 percent of our search committee is represented by students, faculty and staff, so we have had strong input from the people representing those groups on our search committee,” Bale said. “Our faculty, student and staff representatives have been magnificent in their service throughout this search.”

Despite this involvement, some in the WKU community have expressed reservations over a closed search. Richey said he understands those concerns; however, he believes the board will do what needs to be done to ensure the community is not ignored.

“I’m extremely confident that the board and the constituent regents are doing our part to make sure our constituents’ voices are being heard,” Richey said.

The board will meet again on January 27 in Bowling Green for its quarterly meeting.