Pres Schill about to make “secret” decision about UO’s academic future

6/3/2019 update:

I think the most dysfunctional aspect of this secret search is that whoever gets the job of leader of UO’s academic side will not be able to make a plausible claim that they have a mandate from the faculty. The RG’s Jordyn Brown reports that UO will not even release the names of the candidates:

The UO holds that this process is “confidential,” said spokesperson Molly Blancett in a Monday email. The UO would not release the names of candidates, although they already are public employees of the university. Blancett cited Oregon’s public records exemption for personal privacy as the reason for the university withholding candidate names.

And the search committee has been told President Schill doesn’t even want to know how they rank the finalists. (Full disclosure: they did decide I was unacceptable, even at 1/2 the usual price, which shows some good judgement.)

At least 100 faculty, OA’s and staff now know the names and have read the statements from the finalists – but we are expected to keep up the charade of secrecy and not discuss them with our colleagues. This is silly.

5/16/2019: Rumor down at the Faculty Club is that the list includes:

 Patrick Phillips (Biology)

Scott Pratt (Philosophy)

Dennis Galvan (International Studies)

Marcilynn Burke (Law)

Bill Harbaugh (Economics) -as confirmed by Hannah Kanik in the Emerald.

If you have a better rumor, or actual information, please post a comment.

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25 Responses to Pres Schill about to make “secret” decision about UO’s academic future

  1. There are lots of good reasons to keep internal searches closed, one of which is so good people who do not get the job don’t feel discouraged or embarrassed to apply for future positions.

    That’s assuming these people all actually applied (other than you). If the rumors are false, then you’re putting these folks in an even more awkward position.

    So, I’m asking earnestly: What do you see as the value of outing these folks? And does it outweigh the many costs of publishing names that might not be factual? This seems not to be a well thought out action.

    • uomatters says:

      You have the incentives wrong. Do we really want a provost whose fear of embarrassment is so extreme that they will only apply for the job in secret? Public information about applicants is a screening mechanism to drive off those who lack an important qualification for this tough job – a willingness to stick out their neck in public for what they believe in.

      • Like I said, there are many reasons for a closed search. Fear of embarrassment is just one. Sometimes people are in sensitive positions in their current job (and there can be many reasons for that, some of which are outside the control of the applicant), such that they might not want their supervisor or colleagues to know they’re applying for other positions.

        It sounds like you’re hoping that only people who have nothing to lose will apply, which I think is a perverse incentive.

        Also, it’s one thing for the institution to decide it wants an open search and announce the search as such from the outset. But it’s entirely another for the Senate President to unilaterally switch the search from closed to open after applications are in. Signaling, what, exactly? A place where the senate leadership will make capricious and arbitrary decisions about information sharing? What incentive does that provide?

        • Darby says:

          On the other hand, what if an eminently qualified person applies and gets cut out? Wouldn’t be the first time this happened (in secret and not secret searches).

          That would be very telling.

          And certainly not the first time.

    • Publius says:

      Some of these candidates have substantial track records at Oregon which should be the first concern in assessing their fitness for this position. The search committee is presumably soliciting information of this sort, I dont know how they will do it if they keep the candidates a secret. Why dont we start talking now about the fitness of these candidates–if any of them are not in fact candidates, they can just say so.

  2. Richard Bohloff says:

    It is said that the esteemed Harbaugh and Galvan are not on JH’s short list of preferred candidates. The former for general tomfoolery and the latter for reasons I wasn’t privy to.

  3. honest Uncle Gangsta says:

    Don’t underestimate Harbaugh.

    In the end, he could be the Donald Trump of this process!

  4. cdsinclair says:

    For an internal search, I think a public process is preferable to a secret one. Faculty (and students and administrators and staff) individually know different aspects of the candidates’ performance/priorities/etc. In order to fully vet the candidates, these issues should be debated and discussed broadly. Otherwise the committee will be hamstrung talking about the (undoubtedly glowing) materials submitted for consideration, and not the experiences of those on campus who have actually worked with the candidates.

    This said, I do understand the embarrassment factor. However, if you can’t stand up to public scrutiny in the application process, Johnson Hall is not the place for you.

    • Chris, you make a good argument about a public process being preferable to a secret one for internal searches. The time and place for that argument to be made was when the search committee was deciding whether to have an open or closed search. As you know, the senate leadership and other groups on campus had a chance to provide input about the search, including whether to make it open or closed, before the position opened.

      But in arguing the merits of search parameters I think we’re missing the headline news here: the senate president is actively undermining a decision to which he was part, and now the past-president is defending this process. As a senator and a faculty member, I’m dismayed at the facts that this is happening and that nobody seems to care about this level of dysfunction in leadership.

      • just different says:

        It takes two to dysfunction. Upper-level administration hasn’t exactly gone out of its way to earn trust for conducting a closed search. On the other hand, posting rumors about other candidates undermines Harbaugh’s seriousness as a candidate himself.

      • cdsinclair says:

        You might not like the tactic used, but it’s an important demonstration of the limitations of a president’s power. If you operate completely within the system, the president’s power is absolute. In the real world, not so much.

        Part of effective leadership is knowing when to step outside the system to enforce the moral imperative (in this case, transparency).

      • conflicted faculty says:

        Elliot, I think you can push your complaints about this blog post even further. The Senate president has a direct stake in the outcome of the search, because he is also a candidate. The way I see it he has a conflict of interest in disclosing the candidacy of his direct/potential competitors, even if he were completely and absolutely right in his motivations–which he isn’t, as reasonable people can argue that the list of candidates shouldn’t be disclosed at this stage.

        This is one more demonstration for why he isn’t a good candidate for Provost, and why his choice would be very divisive on this campus.

        • charlie says:

          A few years ago, this school fired 75 professors. Admins attempted to cover up a sexual assault of a student by three basketball players because it would impinge on tournament play. It’s flagship policy to circumvent open records laws, debase faculty governance, unilaterally encumber the institution with massive construction debt, continue academic subsidization of athletics at a time of budget deficits and decreasing enrollment.

          But it’s divisive if students, who pay the institutional freight, know anything of the people who will be hired to either maintain, or alter policies, that will affect them for the remainder of their lives. Sorry, but the flagship is a failure…

  5. Publius says:

    THE SECRET SEARCH: A few weeks ago, I tried to provide information–of a critical sort–to the provost search committee on someone I had good reason to believe was a serious candidate for provost. The information I hoped to provide was highly relevant to being provost; plus it was fully documented. Just the sort of input–you would think–those making the decision would want to have. And–having been on one of these committees in the past–just the sort of information that has been considered by such committees previously.

    In response, I received a rather ominous email informing me that it was improper for me to do so–since I did not know for sure if that person was a candidate. Indeed, I might be sharing information that was irrelevant to the proceedings. I replied by asking if they could confirm the person’s candidacy, so that my information could be heard. And the reply was: No! It’s Top Secret!

    This is right out of the Marx Brothers–there is in exchange just like it in their classic “Duck Soup”. Are the people on the search committee really comfortable participating in this sort of farce?

  6. Moonman says:

    Secrecy has its benefits in Johnson Hall:

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtu.be&v=hostgKc7qV4

  7. Autofill says:

    I am not too fond of boot licking. Not sure what some of the previous commenters get from it. But inside word is that this search was canned to favor the Knight Campus from the start. Good leadership – search committee and UO president -should have seen the deep mistrust on this campus as a signal for openness and unambiguous legitimacy in the search process. Simple to listen to the pulse of a wide swath of campus, not just the favored cliques.

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