Though the tactic has been used recently, most searches are open and receive direct community input through open forums.
“I don’t think people should consider it to be a new trend. I think it’s an exception,” said Winston Crisp, vice chancellor for student affairs.
But sometimes an open search discourages qualified applicants from applying because it places their current positions in jeopardy, administrators said.
In 2010, the University conducted an open search for a new dean of the School of Dentistry. Gregg Gilbert, a professor at the University of Alabama-Birmingham, was offered the job but declined it.
The search began anew after the offer, and administrators chose to keep the finalists’ names private. Jane Weintraub, a professor from the University of California-San Francisco, was offered the job and accepted.
“In the case of dentistry, the (first) search really did not produce satisfying results,” said Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Bruce Carney. “We basically needed a different pool of candidates,” he said.
“The more people who are part of the (search) process, the more vetting you can get into the process, but that’s only relevant to the pool of people who apply,” he said. “If you don’t get better candidates with an open search, it might be better to make it closed.”
And making a search closed doesn’t necessarily preclude the possibility of public input, said Don Curtis, a trustee and a member of the athletic director search committee.
Having a diverse search committee can provide the same level of perspective, he said. “If one person was selecting, I would think there would be a far more compelling reason for more openness,” he said.
“A search committee is like a republic instead of a democracy.”
Two search firms presented to the athletic director committee on Friday. Both stressed confidentiality of the applicants.
“There will be some candidates who are definitely interested but will say, ‘I just can’t jeopardize my circumstance at home,” said Bill Carr of Carr Sports Associates Inc.
The 17-member search committee for vice chancellor for finance and administration and 13-member athletic director search committee each included one student and faculty members from a variety of departments.
Aside from the final stages, searches follow the same general pattern, Crisp said. The committee accepts applications and conducts interviews with candidates in private.
Open and closed searches are conducted in the same manner until finalists are chosen. In an open search, the finalists’ names are made public, Crisp said. In a closed search, the finalists’ names are not released.
Crisp said a search for a dean is different from a search for a vice chancellor because members of the individual departments want to be engaged in the process.
The search that resulted in Thorp’s appointment to chancellor was closed. But the last search for the executive vice chancellor and provost and the recent search for the vice chancellor for research were open.
The finalists in the ongoing search for the next associate provost of diversity and multicultural affairs will also be public, wrote the search committee’s chairman, Paul Godley, in an email.
The searches were also open for the deans of the College of Arts and Sciences and the Schools of Journalism and Mass Communication and Information and Library Science.
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