OK, I’ll just say it: Maybe Chuck Lillis and Connie Ballmer were right all along.
I’m very happy to say the story below is about the University of Iowa, not about UO. The events challenge some of my beliefs about open searches, maybe they will challenge yours.
The gist is that the Iowa Board of Regents hired Parker Executive Search to run an open search for a new president. The search committee included 7 faculty members, picked by the faculty senate. They brought 4 candidates to campus: three of the usual academic administrator types, and Bruce Harreld, an MBA who had helped lead IBM’s turnaround back in the day. Here’s the video of Harreld’s meeting with the campus community:
Mr. Harreld has been ridiculed for some of his answers, for not having a PhD or experience as an academic administrator, and for using wikipedia. Personally, I think he comes off pretty well, given the often querulous questions from faculty who are acting like a troglodyte has crashed their party. I particularly like the part where he talks about transparency and consensus building. Every candidate says that sort of stuff – for example Mike Gottfredson. But this guy seems to have actually made it work at IBM.
Anyway, the board and governor wanted to hire Harreld and they knew the faulty would object. So they had Parker disband the search committee, and hired him for $600K a year – pretty cheap, to run a university with 4x the budget of UO’s. Sure enough, last night the UI Faculty Senate voted no confidence in their board. Chronicle report here. Not a great way for Harreld and the faculty to start things off.
The parallels and orthogonalities with UO are striking. The UO Trustees hired the same Parker Executive firm as Iowa. But rather than an open search, UO BOT Chair Chuck Lillis snuck rules for a closed search through the board, with himself as the decider. Chuck Triplett tried to keep me from photographing the copies of the motion that had been distributed to the board just an hour or so before the vote. The UO Senate was conspicuously kept as far away as possible, with the search committee famously including more Moffitts than faculty. The committee met in secret and did not bring the sole finalist to campus until after they had hired him. The UO faculty did not like the search process. Trust in the new board’s judgement was very low. Rumors swirled that the Board was going to hire a non-academic such as Phil Knight, or perhaps even Condi Rice. (Full disclosure: I started that one. I still think she’s got a shot at Rob Mullens’s job.)
Instead Lillis and search committee chair Connie Ballmer hired Mike Schill, the Dean of the U of Chicago law school, and a man who apparently has never held a non-academic job in his life. From what I can tell Schill has made friends with every person he’s talked to on campus, and he’s talked to a lot of people. He’s already made a series of good administrative decisions.
So maybe Chuck Lillis and Connie Ballmer were right all along. And if they were right about the hiring, maybe the board knows some other things that might help UO.
Of course, if they are right, maybe they shouldn’t be so worried about a few public records requests?