TO THE EDITOR:
The choice of a new president is one of the most consequential decisions in the life of a university. We are deeply disappointed by the announcement of the Board of Trustees that they have decided against an open search for the new president. This is clearly against the wishes of the faculty and students who will be directly affected by their choice. We have met with the search firm, Isaacson, Miller, and heard their argument that an open search would deter qualified candidates. If this is true, why do so many universities run successful open searches? In Ohio alone, a number of state universities have recently run open presidential searches. At the University of Nebraska, Isaacson, Miller itself is currently managing an open search.
All we ask is that at least two final candidates be brought to campus to meet students and faculty, and that the university community has a chance to express its opinion of them. Faculty and student opinion will be heard only in the confines of the search committee, all members of which will have to sign a non-disclosure agreement. We fear that the use of an outside search firm is designed to circumvent state Open Meeting laws and the Board of Trustees could easily ignore that opinions expressed by students and faculty on the search committee. A closed search makes a mockery of the ideal of shared governance touted by the administration, especially considering that, as the provost announced at the first University Senate meeting, improved communication is one of this year’s top administrative priorities.
Miami University faces some critical decisions about what kind of institution it will be in the 21st century. Will our traditions of excellence in teaching and scholarship be upheld, or will they be undermined by the increasing application of criteria like “efficiency,” inappropriately imported from the business world? Will we follow the national trend of ever-greater reliance on contingent faculty, or will we choose to invest in a permanent faculty? Will we find ways to make a Miami education more accessible to those of limited means? Will we continue to be culturally homogenous, or will we take steps to become a truly diverse community? We would like to be assured that the next president of Miami will take these issues to heart as much as we do.