Brock is about to begin a search for its next President. The BUFA Executive believes strongly that this search needs to be open. We are seeking public talks by the short-listed candidates and an opportunity for us to interact with them. We are also seeking an opportunity for the Brock community to provide input to the Advisory Committee on the Presidency, prior to it making a hiring recommendation to the Board. We are advocating a process that is very similar to the way we select the Provost and Academic VP, as well as Deans.
The Advisory Committee is planning to have a closed search. In such a search, other than a last minute and in camera “consultation” with Senate on a single candidate, there will be no opportunity for you or other members of the Brock community to know who is being considered nor to have any input into the decision. We think this is unacceptable and have been advocating for an open search in meetings with the Advisory Committee. As part of this advocacy, BUFA is engaging in a public campaign to convince the Committee to change its plans to keep the process behind closed doors.
The reasons for the importance of an open search can be grouped in the following general categories:
1. Importance of Process
An open process shows Brock’s commitment to transparency, consultation, and shared self-governance. A closed search sends applicants the message that important decisions at Brock are done in secret. A selection committee, deliberating in isolation over time and without corrective external input, is vulnerable to “groupthink” and premature closure. The new President, hired with a closed system, will have to overcome the impression that he or she was “imposed” on the institution.
2. Values of the Next President
In addition to appropriate academic and administrative experience, we want a President who thinks it is important to meet the Brock community, not just a selection committee, before deciding if she or he wants to come here. We want a President who highly values shared decision-making and consistently practices transparency and broad consultation. A candidate who will not participate in an open search because of fear that his or her Board of Trustees might find out may be less likely to be a President who will act on principles, if it means that Board members might disapprove.
3. Public Accountability
We are a public institution, funded by the public and serving the public good. Brock is very important to the community and the President is Brock’s face to the larger community. Therefore, community input on specific Presidential candidates should be valued by Brock.
The Advisory Committee’s main arguments for conducting a secret search are “that everyone else does it” and that quality candidates will tend not to apply. Although open searches are rare in Canada, they are more common in the United States and, indeed, are required in a number of states as part of their public accountability legislation. We recognize that there will be some individuals who may not apply because they do not want others (such as their Board of Trustees) to know that they are interested in the job. We recognize that open searches are less predictable, less under the control of the professional search consultant and the Committee, and harder to conduct. But we also recognize that closed searches would be more likely to attract candidates who may not strongly value the transparent decision making and broad consultation described above, as well as those who may be so fearful of their Boards that they forgo opportunities to get to know the institution they will serve. Closed searches protect candidates; open searches protect Brock.
At this time, if you want an open search – if you want to know the identity of shortlisted candidates, hear them present to the Brock community, and be able to provide feedback to the Advisory Committee – we ask that you sign our petition for an “Open Brock U”.
You will hear more specific rationales for an open search as our campaign unfolds.
Please let me know if you have any questions. Email: [email protected]
Linda Rose-Krasnor, Ph.D.
Professor, Department of Psychology
President, Brock University Faculty Association
500 Glenridge Avenue
St. Catharines ON Canada L2S 3A1
Phone: 905-688-5550, ext. 3870