Chair Talk 3.23

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Chair Talk 3.23                        The Faculty Role in Choosing our next President


Now that the process for selecting the next University president has essentially run its course, it’s time to provide an account of how faculty impacted this choice. This review is all the more important, given the misleading article that appeared in the Arizona Daily Star over the weekend.


Our input started early, with the distribution to faculty of a survey asking for thoughts about the characteristics deemed most important in the next president.  The results of this survey were distributed to the search committee at the outset, and created a framework within which prospects were considered.


Two faculty members were appointed to the search committee, myself and Professor Erica Corral.  This was viewed by many faculty as too few, an issue I will not debate, but suffice it to say that both of us were vocal during the meetings.  There were, in addition, four more members of the committee from the UA, who also expressed their opinions openly and regularly.


I participated in every meeting of the search committee, those at the end via phone.  The co-Chairs, and ABOR staff, worked hard to make sure I was able to fully participate and to ask questions at every stage.  

Early on, the committee was engaged in the process of reviewing dozens of prospects.  At this stage, the faculty voice was particularly important, as were the results of the survey.  The initial list of prospects was whittled down to a preliminary short-list, and I can attest that every single one of the prospects on that list amply met the criteria specified on our survey.  Prospects who did not were bypassed at this stage.


Interviews were held with the prospects on this short-list, and I had the opportunity to probe each of them about faculty governance, academic freedom, and the role of tenure and career track faculty at the UA.


This process ultimately resulted in the identification of the top prospects.  It was at this point that the names of the actual candidates were revealed, and I then sought input from faculty about their preference.


As is typical, a relatively small number of faculty responded, and I reported the preference of that group to the Regents, along with my own views.  This is what was reported in the article this weekend.  Virtually everyone who responded agreed that we had a choice between two outstanding candidates of considerable accomplishment.


The Regents, as is their responsibility, weighed input from all sources, and made their choice based on what they thought would best serve the entirety of the UA community, which includes faculty but also includes students, alumni, members of the Tucson and Phoenix communities, and more.  They also determine the President’s pay package, about which I will repeat what I have said before – the growing disparity between faculty salaries and compensation for senior leadership is in my view inappropriate and corrosive, but there is little I can do about it.  With high rewards, however, come increased expectations.  

While I understand the skepticism of many faculty about the process, we had important input that strongly shaped the final pool, making certain that whoever the Regents chose would be someone with strong academic credentials and a history of working effectively in large institutions like the UA.  Dr. Robbins clearly fits that description.


I know that my faculty colleagues will remain skeptical until they see our new president in action – I assume this would be the case no matter who was chosen and what methods were used to make that choice. I also assume that being academics, they will give him the chance to prove himself.  


In addition to interacting with our incoming president during the search process I have had two fruitful exchanges with him since the choice was announced, the second of these in the last few days.  He is aware of, and ready to take on, the many challenges he faces at the UA, and to do so in a spirit of collaboration with faculty from the outset.  He has my commitment to meet him halfway.  

Lynn Nadel
Chair of the Faculty