BY THE CONCORD STAFF
Bellarmine’s official website states that “the Faculty Council shall have the right and duty to advise the President and Trustees of the University and to initiate recommendations in all areas of the University.”
In December 2016, the full-time faculty council was surveyed on their opinions of the closed presidential search, currently being conducted by search firm Isaacson, Miller, which will recommend Bellarmine’s next president this year.
Of those surveyed, 61.62 percent stated that they do not feel conducting a closed search for the future president is appropriate, while less than two of every 5 faculty members responding to the survey believe the search should be closed.
Over half of the faculty members surveyed do not believe that their voice has been represented during the closed search process, and just under 70 percent of faculty surveyed feel there has not been transparency in the search process. Faculty offered many opinions on how the search should be conducted.
One faculty member wrote: “Conduct them as any reputable institution would: in full consultation with its faculty and with an open search and proper vetting of the candidates in which faculty members are invited to participate. The way that the presidential search has been conducted is the way everything has been conducted on this campus since I arrived over 15 years ago–with little or no regard for the opinions of the faculty, in a secretive and autocratic manner on the part of the administration, and with little regard for the real quality of the leadership of the institution. This is no way to run a university that aspires to national recognition and the status of being the ‘premiere Catholic university in the South.’”
To choose to not conduct an open search is to support the trend of closed searches in higher education and to take the future of the university out of the hands of the people who will be affected the most: the faculty who teach and the students who learn at Bellarmine.
“Administrators come and go. The faculty are the long-term stakeholders of this university, wrote a faculty member responding to the survey on the transparency of the current search. “Thus, the faculty have too much invested in the future of the university to allow the board and a consulting firm to work behind a shroud of secrecy.”
While the majority of faculty disagree, some said they believe that the process has been transparent when considering the necessary applicant confidentiality and argue that the hiring decision does not belong to the faculty, staff, or student body, but instead to the Board of Trustees.
However, many remain “fearful that the closed nature of this process could very well produce an ineffective president,” remembering past decisions made by the Board of Trustees that they did not find favorable.
“Unfortunately, the last hire that intimately involved the Board was a terrible fit for the Business School and has resulted in the removal of that dean,” one faculty member said. “A poor hire at this current tumultuous time could be quite harmful to our beloved Bellarmine.”
This statement was echoed by another faculty member who stated that “the Board did a horrible job in hiring a Business School dean. They don’t understand our ‘industry.’ I fear what is coming next.”
Other faculty members questioned how in touch the Board of Trustees is with the needs of not just themselves, but with the needs of all involved in Bellarmine’s pursuit of truth, knowledge and growth.
One faculty member said: “I know the board feels confident in their ability to choose the best candidate and I am sure they have excellent experience with hiring in their own positions; however, does the Board really know our current students, faculty, and staff?”
Despite the known expertise of the hired search firm and overall respect for the Board of Trustees, many faculty remain concerned that only a select few will make the final choice that will ultimately affect everyone.
Making the necessary decision to open the search will not only make students faculty, and staff feel heard, it will bring new perspectives into play and help find the most effective leader possible.
“Are we living in a time where a selective elite group decides who can best preside over an institution without any representation of its constituency? Dark times [are] indeed ahead of us,” said a surveyed faculty member.