Presidential Search Committee holds faculty forum

Monica Kast

The Presidential Search Committee hosted an open forum for university faculty on Friday, when the faculty was able to give feedback about what they want in the next university president.

The entire search committee was present aside from Julie Hinson, who was watching the forum via video conference. The WKU regional campuses were also able to participate via videoconference.

Phillip Bale, committee chairman, opened up the forum by explaining the process of selecting the next university president. Bale said the committee had recently heard from four nationally prominent search firms and would be selecting one to help with the process. The committee’s next step was to develop a profile to give to the firm, he said, and the open forum would help identify what qualities they would be looking for.

We need to be the best Western Kentucky University we can be, and we will only do that if we have the buy-in of the people who make it happen everyday.

Bale said the forum’s primary focus was to allow faculty to have early input in the process of selecting the next president.

“We’re here today primarily to listen and to recognize that the faculty is an extremely important stakeholder and group that we want to hear from,” Bale said. “We want to solicit your input as to what you think our goals should be [and] what the challenges are — strengths, weaknesses, opportunities.”

The search committee then opened the floor to feedback from faculty members. Audrey Anton, assistant professor of philosophy and religion, said she hoped the next president would have an academic background. Several other faculty members echoed her concerns throughout the forum.

“I would prefer that the candidates that you consider have a background as professors,” Anton said. “I think a lot of people can claim themselves to be academics just because they’re educated, and there’s a big difference between being educated and being an educator.”

Other faculty members, including associate sociology professor Jerry Daday, said they would like the next president to take the university in a more focused direction.

“Part of me thinks that we as a university are trying to be all to everyone and everything in the world, and I think we’ve overreached in a lot of ways,” Daday said. “I’d rather us pick three or four things and do them very well.”

Patti Minter, associate professor of history, said she wanted more faculty involvement when it came to the university’s mission and was looking for a “bottom-up leadership style, not a top-down leadership style.”

“The university’s mission has to be created by the people who make it happen every day, and those need to be collaborative conversations,” Minter said. “We need to be the best Western Kentucky University we can be, and we will only do that if we have the buy-in of the people who make it happen everyday.”

Darnez Pope, instructor in the department of health information management, said she was looking for someone who had a strong sense of community.

“One thing that really concerns me for the new president we will get is just making sure that he or she has a sense of community value,” Pope said. “An individual who has a sense of community value … can allow the faculty, staff and students to feel like this is their home away from home.”

Other concerns were brought up about making sure regional campuses and nontraditional students felt included at WKU and in regards to the university’s expansion in regards to international involvement.

The Presidential Search Committee will host a second faculty forum on April 27 at 4 p.m. in Snell Hall to gather additional feedback.