Should the Board’s search for our next Pres be open or closed?

President Schill was hired by Board Chair Chuck Lillis after a closed search (which additionally minimized faculty input, and gave Lillis sole power to pick the one finalist.) This report from the Brechner Center for Freedom of Information is the first attempt I’ve seen to examine the consequences of such closed searches:

The most common argument for a confidential university executive search is that the school will not get the “best” candidate if it opens up the search, because good candidates would be wary about applying due to the possibility their interest in the job would be revealed to everyone. Would-be candidates are alleged to be afraid that if they apply for a job and do not get hired, that they will seem like “damaged goods” in future job pursuits, or that their interest in another job will result in retaliation at their home institutions.

… The closed searches did garner a larger percentage of chief executives than the open searches did (23.0 percent > 10.8 percent). So proponents of closed-door searches are probably correct that some sitting presidents or chancellors hesitate to risk disturbing relations back home (or to incur the embarrassment of a public rejection) by allowing themselves to be considered publicly. It’s worth noting, however, that even with a secret search, universities do not end up hiring a sitting chief executive more than three-quarters of the time.

Closed searches resulted in slightly more deans (9.7 percent > 8.5 percent) and government officials (7.3 percent > 4.6 percent) while open searches resulted in more hires from executives who were not the top executive, such as an executive vice president or provost (44.6 percent > 38.8 percent). Interestingly, the most pronounced difference between open and closed searches was in the likelihood of hiring a candidate from the business sector as opposed to someone currently working in higher education; closed searches resulted in hiring a business executive 10.6 percent of the time, while open searches produced a candidate from the business community only 1.8 percent of the time.

… Statistically, there does not appear to be support for the contention that being publicly considered for a university presidency is likely to produce severe professional harm. The most common outcome for those who sought presidencies and were not chosen is to be hired for a different presidency, which suggests there is no widespread “damaged goods” perception. Almost all of those who did not attain another presidency within a short time either remained in their current positions, secured other university executive positions, or (as with Johnson, King, Panchanathan and others) left campus for prestigious executive positions elsewhere.

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13 Responses to Should the Board’s search for our next Pres be open or closed?

  1. Canard says:

    I think there should be a draft, like the NFL. And since we’re always at the bottom of the AAU, we’d get the first pick.

  2. Tug o' the Forelock says:

    Oregon is at at will state; we can ALL be fired without notice and without cause: https://www.oregon.gov/boli/employers/Pages/employment-at-will.aspx

    • uomatters says:

      “… unless there is a contract …” Such as a union CBA, or Pres Schill’s contract, or Rob Mullens’s contract, or the coaches contracts, etc.

  3. Steve Mital says:

    My understanding of the rationale, in part, for high executive pay is that the additional risks and stresses these people take on – can be fired without cause, intense public scrutiny, loss of some privacy, etc – needs to be priced in to their compensation packages up front.

    • New Year Cat says:

      None the less, a “Half-Price President” would be a welcome and refreshing sight. Of course they would earn a mere $500,000 instead of the current combo of what we pay and what the Foundation kicks in. But I’d do it for that price ;) Maybe UO Matters would too?

    • ScienceDuck says:

      I think most people would love to have the conditions of being “fired at will” like Gottfredson, who quit with one day’s notice and received a $940,000 severance package for his trouble.

      I hear the same rationale for football coaches, who are one bad season away from being suddenly fired. Somehow those defenders of salary excess neglect to mention the coaches who manage to be paid by multiple former athletic departments for years after. What normal job fires people and then pays them for three more years?

      Million dollar severance packages and multi-year payments after firing, or having tenured faculty fallbacks at double the normal salary should be benefits that reduce the executive salary, not increase it.

      • EssentialWorker says:

        The stresses of their job, being fired at will, and additional risks are shared by people who work at all types of jobs, particularly “essential workers” who are at the highest risk of contracting COVID19. Extraordinary executive/administrative/coach pay for such is nothing less than outrageous.

    • Leporello says:

      My understanding is that it’s a very small circle of people churning these positions, and they constantly reference each other for salary comparisons. The inevitable result is the upward migration.

      Time to cut the fat out of UO (and all colleges, for that matter) administration.

      • Anonymous says:

        Probably not a circle, probably a closed manifold designed by Brad Shelton which attempts to minimize the total free energy involved.

  4. New Year Cat says:

    Open! And with classified, OA, student and faculty on the hiring committee. A couple of each would be nice.

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