Presidential Search Committee discusses specific candidates

Callie Miller

The Presidential Search Committee discussed specific candidates in the search for WKU’s next president during a closed session in their Friday meeting.

Representatives from Isaacson, Miller, the search firm hired by WKU, said they have contacted more than 200 people they think might be interested in being WKU’s next president.

“We are beginning the actual process of looking at people today,” Phillip Bale, chair of the committee, said.

During closed session he said the committee focused on around 30 active candidates.

The committee hasn’t yet decided whether the search will be open or closed. It will be up to the Board of Regents, but Bale said he cannot say when exactly that decision will be made.

“I think we can all feel encouraged by the quality and diversity of our applicant pool,” he said. If confidentiality is not guaranteed, he said that a significant amount of applicants said they would drop out, including “some of the more high-profile applicants.”

Journalism Professor Mac McKerral attended the meeting to protest the committee having a closed search.

“I can’t imagine why someone who really wanted this job would have any qualms about people knowing that he or she wanted the job,” McKerral said in response to the committee’s worries that potential candidates would drop out if the search was conducted openly. “I just don’t buy into the theory that good people won’t apply if someone’s gonna know who they are.”

McKerral gave a memo to the chair and several members of the committee who are also regents articulating his positions on why the committee shouldn’t conduct a closed search.

“I’ve spent a very good part of my career as a reporter and an editor covering governmental affairs, and I’m very aware of the kinds of things that go on in closed meetings,” he said, adding that he is not accusing anyone of wrongdoing, but that “the environment for bad things happening is created in closed sessions, and we’re a public institution.”

Bale said the university may benefit in having a pool of better candidates by guaranteeing potential presidents who apply anonymity during a search.

“To reveal names of applicants at this point would absolutely poison quality and diversity and quantity of our applicant pool according to our consultants,” Bale said. “The process itself we’ve made as transparent as we can possibly make it.”

Student Representative Jay Todd Richey said the candidates discussed were of “extremely high caliber,” but as a Board member could not comment on whether he thought the search would be open or closed.

Reporter Callie Miller can be reached at 270-745-6011 and [email protected].