Sonoma State University 2015-16 Presidential Search

Resolved:  That the Sonoma State University (SSU) Academic Senate calls for an open and transparent search process for the next president of the university, in which finalists’ names are publicly announced and official campus visits for them are scheduled; and be it further

Resolved:  That the SSU Academic Senate strongly urges that community members appointed to the campus Advisory Committee to the Trustees Committee for the Selection of the President (ACTCSP) be from groups with strong ties to the local community and individuals who have made significant contributions to the university’s local service area; and be it further

Resolved:  That the SSU Academic Senate strongly encourages the California State University (CSU) Board of Trustees to revise their September 2011 Policy for the Selection of Presidents to include mandatory public visits to campuses for finalists in presidential searches; and be it further
 
Resolved:  That this resolution be distributed to the Chair of the Board of Trustees, the Chancellor, the Chair of the Trustees Committee for the Selection of the President (TCSP) for SSU, the Academic Senate CSU and campus senate chairs.

Rationale
CSU presidential searches are governed by the Board of Trustees Policy for the Selection of Presidents.  That policy creates a two-tiered committee process for a presidential search. The Trustees Committee for the Selection of the President (TCSP) ultimately recommends final candidates to the Board. The campus Advisory Committee to the Trustees Committee for the Selection of the President (ACTCSP) participates in the search process, including interviews and deliberations that lead to the selection of a final candidate(s).

Several provisions of the policy have significant implications for the nature of a presidential search.  On the one hand, the policy expresses a welcome “ deep commitment” to consultation with campus and community representatives and diversity. On the other hand, rather than mandating an open search process, the policy provides that the Chancellor and the Chair of the TCSP together decide whether to schedule campus visits for presidential finalists. They may also appoint up to two additional members from constituent groups to the ACTCSP “…to strengthen its capacity to cope with the complex requirements of a specific search, including diversity of the campus, the service area or the state.” (http://www.calstate.edu/datastore/PresidentialSearch.shtml

The Sonoma State University Academic Senate strongly urges that the TCSP conduct an open and transparent search process. Forgoing announcing finalists’ names publicly and scheduling official campus visits for them would be behavior more characteristic of a private corporation than a public university. Doing so would also mean a less transparent search process and less confidence in the outcome on the part of the university community and public. The thoughts of the new president at CSU Sacramento are instructive in this regard. In his Fall 2015 Address, President Robert S. Nelsen frankly expressed his dislike for the search process for new presidents.  He spoke to the absence of an on-campus interview and to the lack of opportunity for campus community input into the choice of the president. In his words, “I hate that I didn’t get the opportunity to meet all of you during the search and that I am only meeting you now. And I don’t like it that you are only meeting me now and that the huge majority of you had no say in whom [sic] your next president would be.” (http://csus.edu/sacstatenews/Articles/2015/08/documents/FallAddress2015_AsPrepared.pdf)

Meaningful consultation means open campus visits where all members of the university community have the opportunity to meet finalists and ask them questions in a public forum.  Such visits give the university and public insight into finalists’ knowledge of the campus and their ability to unify and lead the students, faculty, staff and administration. They also give finalists insight into the university community they aspire to lead. 

A “deep commitment” to consultation and diversity extends to the membership of the ACTCSP, as well. Members appointed from local constituent groups should live and work in the region, and have made significant contributions to the university’s service area. Such individuals would add an important depth of insight and perspective to the campus advisory committee. Their appointment would also demonstrate the CSU’s commitment to consultation with the local community and acknowledgement of the contribution that local constituencies make to the university’s mission.

Uanimously Approved 9/17/15