ISU To Name New President Friday; Finalists Not Disclosed
Illinois State University will announce its next president on Friday at a special board of trustees meeting.
The proposed annual salary for the new president will be $375,000. The four-year contract also includes retirement contributions, use of a vehicle and the university residence, and other customary items such as a country club membership that are valued at more than $49,000 per year.
Unlike past presidential hires, the campus community does not know the field of finalists. ISU has traditionally scheduled public presentations by finalists for high-level positions before a number of campus constituencies. The past rationale for that included getting feedback from stakeholders, and because ISU is a public institution and there is a need to be as transparent as possible.
Recent presidential searches at Northern and Western Illinois universities were both public; Northern found 13 out of 18 peer institutions conducted public searches.
ISU trustees chair Julie Jones also is chair of the search committee. She said the reason for keeping the names private this time was to broaden the talent pool.
"It's believed by some that the candidates who are sitting presidents or vice presidents might be somewhat hesitant to participate in a public search for a real concern that their current position might be in jeopardy if they were not selected for our position," said Jones.
Jones said the concern might be more pronounced for diverse candidates from underrepresented groups who have finally achieved senior positions at other institutions.
Martha Horst, head of ISU's Academic Senate, said the campus will have to see the outcome to gauge the validity of the talent pool argument. Back in March, Horst said the Senate passed a resolution asking that finalists for the job be made public.
"We would have had more opportunity for the candidates to interact with all sorts of members of the campus community. When you have a select few you get less perspective. In my opinion, there is something to be lost if you do not have as many people as possible viewing the candidates through their own personal lens," said Horst.
"Shared governance allows for broad participation and defined roles in the process," said Jones. "I believe that was accomplished with our presidential search. It yielded excellent candidates and I believe the person selected for the 20th president of Illinois State University will be just the person to lead Illinois State into its next era."
Jones said the university tried to offset the lack of campus input usually provided by public sessions with finalists by increasing the size of the search committee to more than 33 people.
"It was large. We feel it was a diverse committee and it represented a great cross-section of our campus constituents and it allowed us to receive much more input than a traditional search committee may have done," said Jones.
She said the committee also scheduled private finalist interviews with the vice presidents and a 20-member broader governance group.
Horst said it's not just campus feedback that matters; public sessions with finalists help a new president get a running start on the job.
"Ultimately, part of the interview process is for the candidate to introduce themselves to the community. So in some sense they lost that opportunity," said Horst.
Jones said she hopes that is not an issue.
"We need to give whoever the new president is a fair chance, judge them on their merits, not judge them on a process they had nothing to do with and make sure we show them our support where we can," she said, adding logistical difficulties of arranging campus events during the pandemic also played a part in the decision not to publicly name finalists.
Horst said she hopes the successful candidate will be able to come to an atmosphere where they can meet with faculty, staff, students and the rest of the university community in person and understand and appreciate ISU's values.