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The Daily Tar Heel

Two years later, still no better way to find a Provost

When Chancellor Holden Thorp hired Bruce Carney to become the full-time provost in 2010, he vowed that when Carney decided to step down, a better method of administrative hiring would be in place.

That pledge came on the heels of a search that cost the University $144,700 to pull in four candidates from across the country. But Thorp opted instead for a man working right down the hall ­— Carney, the interim provost and not one of the candidates.

More than two years later, Carney has announced plans to step down.
But weeks after the announcement, there is no indication that Thorp has made good on his word.

“I’ve realized since 2009 that the whole process will go smoother if I let the search committee make the decisions and talk amongst themselves about how they want to go about the search,” Thorp said.

Thorp sent an email to students and faculty Thursday announcing he had assembled a 21-member committee — composed of students, faculty, staff and members of the Board of Trustees — to conduct a comprehensive search for Carney’s replacement.

How that committee will carry out the search remains largely undecided.

The first decision that will be left entirely up to the committee will be whether to hire an external search firm.

Relying on headhunting firms to compile a broad, nationwide search for external candidates is a common practice in higher education hiring.

But hiring such firms comes at no small price.

When the University sought to find a replacement for Carney’s predecessor, Bernadette Gray-Little, in 2009, administrators hired the consulting firm R. William Funk and Associates to conduct the search for $72,800. Other costs included those associated with travel and candidate visits.

Now, as the committee begins its search for Carney’s successor, the advantages of external search firms are up for discussion.

Kristen Swanson, dean of the School of Nursing and head of the search committee, said that although the decision will be made by the committee in two or three weeks, it is likely the committee will use an external firm.

“It’s a very affirming outcome for the University to know that they looked far and wide for candidates, and to know that the person they brought in is the right person to move the University forward,” she said.

Carney said it is important to remember that the money spent on external firms does not come out of the University’s budget, but the UNC-Chapel Hill Foundation, Inc.

“I think money for an external search is money well spent,” Carney said.

And despite cost concerns, Thorp said spending money on filling the University’s number two position with the right person will be a better investment in the end.

“If it comes down to it, spending $150,000 to hire someone who will run a $2 million budget is not an extravagant choice.”

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