Sole U-Wisc President candidate withdraws, in another failure for search firms

From the Chronicle of Higher Ed, here:

The University of Alaska’s president, James R. Johnsen, announced on Friday that he had withdrawn his candidacy for president of the University of Wisconsin system following growing criticism of his record in Alaska and of Wisconsin’s search, which named him its only finalist.

“After deep reflection as to where I am called to lead a university system through these challenging times, it is clear to me and my family that it is in Alaska,” Johnsen, 62, said in a written statement. He said he appreciated the search committee’s strong support, “but it’s clear they have important process issues to work out.”

The “process” was a monthslong search, led by a committee with no faculty, staff, or student members, that ended up with a single finalist.

Suddenly he’s upset about the process? He happily went along with it, until it bit him in the ass. From the Wisconsin State Journal, here:

“Preventing the public from knowing who else applied for this incredibly important position is a violation of public trust,” Lueders [president of the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council] said. “It’s a slap in the public’s face.”

Naming a single finalist for top jobs follows a recent trend in higher education. Candidates themselves and search firms — which, in the case of UW System, will be paid upward of $200,000 — argue that public naming creates too much professional exposure and potential problems with a current employer for the finalists who are not picked.

It also makes it very clear to potential applicants whose interests they need to care about – not students, faculty, or voters – no one but the Board and donors.

The scheme used by UO’s Angela Wilhelms and BoT Chair Chuck Lillis to select President Schill was even less public. The rules, which will stand for the search to replace Schill unless they are changed – gave Lillis as Board Chair sole authority to select a single candidate for the board to vote on. Schill met with a few select faculty, then was driven up to Portland to meet with Phil Knight.

Search firm UO used for Law & Music deans & VPR and is using for Grad School is banned by North Carolina, refunded entire $110K fee

InsideHigherEd has the news from North Carolina here:

The University of North Carolina System Board of Governors named Cecil Staton the next chancellor of East Carolina University in April 2017. Nine months later, the executive search firm hired to recruit Staton refunded $110,000 in professional fees from the search.

University system leaders blocked the search firm, Witt/Kieffer, from any of their future business. At issue was “inaccurate salary information for Staton’s previous posts in Georgia,” according to a report in Business North Carolina citing three people familiar with the situation.

The incident offers insight into the incentives and pressures swirling within the often-expensive world of recruiting executive-level leaders in higher education. Firms are frequently paid based on the starting earnings of the candidates they find, and they can be asked to become involved in negotiations between candidate and college. As a result, search firms can quickly find themselves navigating ethically murky waters between the universities that pay their bills, the candidates they recruit and their own self-interest. …

UO has Witt/Kieffer on contract through 2019, and is currently using them for the Grad School Dean searche, and used them in the recent hiring of Law School Dean Marcilyn Burke, SOMD Dean Sabrina Madison-Cannon, and VPR David Conover.

Presumably UO GC Kevin Reed is doing his due diligence on this.