Wednesday, July 01, 2015

UA President Search Part 2: Search Committee History 1990, 1998, 2010, 2015 - From Open To Closed

This is a long, detailed post.  I suspect most people don't need all the information, but I wanted to be sure that I was accurate and document everything I wrote.  And it needed a lot of specifics since some of the data needed to be pulled out of announcements, documents (some sent very expeditiously by the university public affairs office), and other sources.  So, I'm going to summarize what I found and for those interested, the details are below.


Basically, my hypothesis proved accurate.  In  UA Presdient Search Part 1, I looked at the difference in culture between the more corporate Board of Regents and the traditional shared governance culture of universities.  My intent there was to give context to the present search.

The goal of this second part is to look at the last four presidential searches - 1990, 1998, 2010, and now, 2015 - to see if they did indeed reflect the changes I expected to see from an open search with lots of involvement to a search dominated by the Board of Regents with the rest of the university community relatively in the dark. 

While it's not a perfect trajectory, it's pretty close.  Here are a few of the factors I looked at:
  1. Who conducted the search? A broadly representative search committee or the Board of Regents?
  2. Communication about the process to the rest of the university.
  3. Number of finalists,  their backgrounds, and the process for candidates to visit campuses. 
The 1990 search used the traditional academic model of shared governance with a search committee representing many constituencies and with four faculty members.  There was lots of public involvement, the search committee was relatively free to discuss the search with others.  There were four finalists who visited the campuses over a month period - all had doctorates and were academics.

The 1998 search began a radical change as the Board decided that it would conduct the search themselves.  After some push back from faculty and others, a search advisory committee was set up, which, according to its chair, went through all the applications and made recommendations to the Board, but she felt the Board wasn't particularly listening to them.  The finalists were an Army General and a Chemistry professor who visited the campuses. Compared to 2010 and 2015, the Board gave out a fair amount of information about the process, but much less than 1990. 

The 2010 search was again run by the Board and there was almost no information given out from the announcement of the search until the announcement of the three finalists.  There was an advisory committee set up, but it apparently had less involvement than the 1988 committee.  There were three finalists - an Air Force General, the Juneau Chancellor, and a university administrator from the Lower 48.  The third candidate was the only one with a doctorate.  They had a speed dating sort of campus tour - all coming on the same time and the community switched rooms after a set time. 

2015 seems a bit more open than 2010. In the end, there is only one candidate and we know nothing about the other two finalists.  This time there was a search committee, but it was one-third regents, one-third corporate executives representing 'the community' and only one faculty and one student and several staff.  There were no public meetings and very little information during the process.  After the search committee gave four names to the Board, one withdrew publicly, and the Board decided that two shouldn't go forward, leaving one candidate who will visit campuses the week of July 6, while most faculty and students are away for the summer.  The finalist is basically and administrator who has gotten an EdD while working full time and has some adjunct teaching experience.  There has never before been only one finalist before the university community gets involved.

There's a clear trend from open to closed searches.  I suspect this is related to the fact that the Board of Regents now mostly come from the corporate world and this reflects their private sector approach to making decisions at the top and out of view of the public.

That's the overview, there are a lot more details below.  I actually have been working on this since the first post, but getting documents, talking to people, and figuring out how to present it has taken up a lot of time.  I'm basically scrapping what I wrote and starting over fresh now that I have a better handle on things.

The Details

So, let's go through each of those three factors I was looking at and compare the four searches.

Note, at the bottom of this post I've put up some of the documents I received from the university.  Basically for the 1990 search, including a schedule of the campus visits by the candidates, a list of the search committee members, and a timetable for the search. 

1:  Who conducted the search?  A broadly representative search committee or the Board of Regents?

1990  Search That Hired Komisarr

Search Committee was established to work in consultation with Board of Regents.
Appointed by Board Chair from recommendations provided by chancellors and university constituent groups.
Members:  11  -  business leaders - 1; regents - 1; alumni - 1; student - 1;  campus staff - 2;  statewide staff - 1;  faculty - 4
Duties:  Set qualifications, advertisements, screen applicants to semi-finalist stage, select 3-5 finalists, on-site visits to finalists' campuses, students, faculty, and other citizenry meet applicants and submit comments

1998 Search that Hired Hamilton  

This search departed from the previous searches that were conducted by a large committee made of various constituencies in the university community.  The Regents decided to be the search committee.  They committed to public participation, but kept things close to the vest.   From the Board's announcement of the committee:

Regents of the University of Alaska launched the search for a new president at an emergency meeting this week, and their first decision was for the board to function as its own search committee, and to involve the university community and the Alaska general public widely in the board's deliberations.. . .Fairbanks Regent Mike Kelly, president of the board, said they will retain the services of an executive search firm to expedite the search for a new chief executive of the state's only system of public higher education.
. . . "Having the board serve as a search committee is a departure from past practice," Kelly said, "but the board feels this innovative approach will allow more people to have more input into the process than they would have if the search task were assigned to a small committee. [NOTE: the 1990 search committee had eleven members and the Board of Regents has eleven members.]
"The university has a variety of constituent groups, and we want to guarantee that they all have adequate opportunities to help the regents define the qualities and attributes of the university president," Kelly said.
"Our meetings will be open to the public," Kelly said. "We will receive written input and will provide for input by electronic means using the university's web pages. We are all determined to involve the university community and Alaska's general public in the board's deliberations." (From Board of Regents press release 1/15/98)
 After pushback from faculty, they formed a 'search evaluation committee' made up of  seven people - four faculty, one alumnus, one student, and one campus staff member. [See documents for 1998 below]
"Fairbanks Regent Mike Kelly, president of the board, told the regents Friday that he plans to appoint an evaluation committee composed of representatives of the faculty, staff, students, and alumni of the university to work with the board in reviewing and assessing candidate applications. He said the committee will work closely with the board which will serve as the presidential search committee." (From Board of Regents press release 2/10/98)
I spoke to Lauren Bruce, the chair of this committee.  She said they got candidates from the search firm and would evaluate them and send the best to the Board, but they were all shot down for one reason or another.  In one case, a candidate they all liked a lot, she recalled, was eliminated because someone didn't like that he was a member of the Sierra Club.  As the process went along, she says she realized that the committee really had no sway in the process.  It was there just for show. 

Search That Hired President Gamble - 2010

This search was kept pretty close to the vest.  There's not a lot of information.  The first mention I could find of a 'search advisory board' was in Feb 19, 2010 memo (seven months after the search began).

From the Juneau Empire on March 3, 2010:  
"The process to select a new leader has been shrouded in secrecy and is facing some criticism in Juneau. . .
The Board of Regents has been searching for a new president since [last June] , but didn't release the list of three candidates from which they'll chose until Sunday.
Jonathan Anderson, a professor in Juneau and a representative to the Faculty Alliance, said some members of the faculty were disappointed in the selection process.
"We are extremely disappointed that the regents chose to make this decision totally on their own with little or no input from faculty or staff," he said."
 I called Anderson (who's quoted in the Juneau Empire article above), and is now the chair of the public administration department at Cal State San Bernadino.  He said there was a committee that included faculty, but they were not given any role to play by the Board of Regents. He said it was just for show.

2015 - Current Search

Things seem marginally better than in 2010. There was a search advisory committee, but it was heavy with board members, corporate executives as community representatives, with only one faculty member and one student.  From the Board Search Committee webpage:  (I've added the color coding)

University of Alaska Ex-Officio Presidential Search Advisory Committee

Mary K. HughesAdvisory Committee Chair; Former Chair, Board of RegentsAnchorage
Jyotsna HeckmanChair, Board of Regents; Retired President & CEO, Denali State BankFairbanks
Michael PowersVice Chair, Board of Regents; Chief Executive Officer, Fairbanks Memorial Hospital and Denali CenterFairbanks
Kenneth J. FisherSecretary, Board of Regents; Engineer Officer, U.S. Public Health Service, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 10Juneau
Gloria O’NeillTreasurer, Board of Regents; President and CEO, Cook Inlet Tribal CouncilAnchorage
Toby WarkCoalition of Student Leaders Chair; UAS Student, BusinessSitka
David ValentineFaculty Alliance Chair; UAF Professor of Forest SoilsFairbanks
Monique Musick   Staff Alliance, Chair; SW Public Affairs StaffFairbanks
Rachel Morse
System Governance Council Chair ; UAA Assistant Vice Chancellor for Alumni RelationsAnchorage
Susan Anderson
Chair, University of Alaska Foundation, Board of Trustees; President/CEO, The CIRI FoundationAnchorage
Carla BeamVice President, University Relations, University of Alaska;
President, University of Alaska Foundation
Joe Usibelli, Jr.President, Usibelli Coal MineFairbanks
Ralph SamuelsVice President, Government & Community Relations Holland America LineAnchorage
Jason MetrokinPresident & Chief Executive, Bristol Bay Native CorporationAnchorage
Marilyn RomanoRegional Vice President, Alaska, Alaska Airlines

This search committee has 15 people, and as you can see in the table below one-third (1/3) are from the Board of Regents, one-third (1/3) are from outside the university. That leaves just one faculty representative, one student representative, and three staff representatives. Two are from the campuses and one is from the higher levels of statewide administration.

Representation # on committee  % of committee
Regents 5** 33%
Students 1 6%
Faculty 1 6%
Staff - campuses    2 13%
Community 5 33%
Staff -statewide 1 6%


2.  Communication about the process to the rest of the university.

How often did the Board communicate with the public?  How open were the search committee meetings?  Here too, the trend is from openness to secrecy.  

1990 Search   (See 1990 University of Alaska Presidential Search documents at the bottom of the post.)

This search had a representative search committee where representatives of different constituent groups could keep their constituencies up to date on how the process was going.  

They published a detailed timeline for the process.  

When the finalists were selected  not only did they visit the campuses, but they also were scheduled for interviews at radio stations so more of the public could get to know them. 

1998 Search

Again, the search committee members were able to communicate with their constituencies.
There were five announcements after the January 7, 1998 notice that President Komisar was going to resign.

Early on the Board called for the university community to participate in developing a job descriptions and promised the meetings would be open:  
"The university has a variety of constituent groups, and we want to guarantee that they all have adequate opportunities to help the regents define the qualities and attributes of the university president," Kelly said.
"Our meetings will be open to the public," Kelly said. "We will receive written input and will provide for input by electronic means using the university's web pages. We are all determined to involve the university community and Alaska's general public in the board's deliberations." (From Board of Regents press release 1/15/98)
I simply don't know how well they lived up to these promises.  However one of the announcements did mention that the candidates would meet with the news media during their visits. 

2010 Search

There are four UA Public Affairs notices about this search.
In June 2009, there's a press release announcing President Hamilton's retirement the next year.  It mentions the search for his replacement:
"[Board chair Cynthia] Henry said it's too early to know exactly how the search process will play out, but that she intends to keep the public and key stakeholders informed along the way. Hamilton, 64, has been at the helm of the system since August 1998. "
If she did keep the public and stakeholders informed, it's not easy to find evidence today.  You'll also note a language change from the 1998 search where they talked about 'university constituents.'  In 2010 (and 2015) the language is 'stakeholders.'  My understanding of these terms suggests the first is more rooted in the democratic process of politicians representing their constituents.  The Merriam-Webster Dictionary offers this as its main definition:
"one who authorizes another to act as agent"
which implies the power resides in the constituent.  A William Safire article in the New York Times looks at the origins of 'stakeholder' and mentions, among other uses, it has a corporate sense - those who have an interest in the outcome of something.   Such a person has a lot less claim, it would seem, than a 'constituent.'

But back to the other three officials announcements.
  •  One on Feb. 19, 2010 announces that the list was narrowed down to six candidates, that they would narrow it down further, and a schedule for state wide tour by the candidates to meet constituents.  

If you search through the Board of Regents agendas and minutes you can find shadows of the search.  (Are you getting why this has taken me so long?)  There was an emergency Board meeting on July 10, 2009 to discuss the president's contract and the presidential search.  It was all in executive session.

I.​Call to Order

II.​Adoption of Agenda

"The Board of Regents adopts the agenda as presented.

I.​Call to Order
II.​Adoption of Agenda
III.​Executive Session regarding President’s Contract and Presidential Search

​This motion is effective July 10, 2009."

III.​Executive Session regarding President’s Contract and Presidential Search

"The Board of Regents goes into executive session at _________ Alaska Time in accordance with the provisions of AS 44.62.310 to discuss matters the immediate knowledge of which would have an adverse effect on the finances of the university related the president’s contract and the presidential search, and personnel matters, this matter the immediate knowledge of which could affect the reputation or character of a person or persons.  The session will include members of the Board of Regents and President Hamilton and such other university staff members as the president may designate and will last approximately 8 hours.  Thus, the open session of the Board of Regents will resume at approximately 5:00 p.m. Alaska Time.  This motion is effective July 10, 2009."

(To be announced at conclusion of executive session)
The Board of Regents concluded an executive session at _____ Alaska Time in accordance with AS 44.62.310 discussing matters the immediate knowledge of which would have an adverse effect on the finances of the university or affect the reputation or character of a person or persons.  The session included members of the Board of Regents and President Hamilton, and other university staff members designated by the president and lasted approximately ______ hour(s).

The minutes of that meeting add information about who made the motion to approve the minutes, who seconded it and a sentence saying that President Hamilton's contract was renewed.  But no details of the contract or about the search.  

The Alaska Statutes spell out the only allowable reasons for holding a meeting in executive session:

AS 42.40.170. Executive Sessions.

(a) The question of holding an executive session shall be determined in accordance with AS 42.40.160 . A subject may not be considered at an executive session unless it is mentioned in the motion calling for the executive session or is auxiliary to a subject mentioned. An action may not be taken at an executive session.
(b) Only the following subjects may be discussed in an executive session:
(1) matters, the immediate knowledge of which would clearly have an adverse effect upon the finances of the corporation;
(2) unless the person has requested to have the subjects discussed in public, subjects that tend to prejudice the reputation and character of a person;
(3) matters that, by law or municipal charter or ordinance, are permitted to be kept confidential from public disclosure;
(4) matters pertaining to personnel;
(5) matters pertaining to the corporation's legal position;
(6) land acquisition or disposal; and
(7) proprietary or other information of a type treated as confidential under the standards and practices of the United States Interstate Commerce Commission, including practices that protect information associated with specific shippers, divisions, and contract rate agreements.
Evaluation of the President's performance probably rates as a reason for executive session (though I doubt they said anything about Hamilton that might "prejudice [his] reputation and character." At this early point in the search process, the only remotely legitimate reason I can see for the regents to go into executive session would be item (b)1.  They may have discussed how much they were willing to spend on a search firm and possibly on the presidential salary and didn't want to compromise their bargaining position.

They also mention (b)2, but as I said, I doubt they said anything bad about Hamilton.  And, if they did, they couldn't have spent all eight hours discussing it, could they have?  Much of what they would have discussed would certainly have not been covered by the rules for executive session.  It might be easier to just stay in executive session, but the law specifically prohibits discussing things that are NOT covered by the officially announced reasons for going into executive session. 

There was an ex-officio meeting to discuss the proposals from search firms for the presidential search in the Brady Construction conference room on August 17.   And they had a full board meeting on August 24 to select a firm.  They had a two hour meeting on Sept. 15  to discuss the search with a representative of the search firm, Academic Search.  The  agenda of the September 24-25 board meeting in Juneau doesn't mention the presidential search.

I could offer a few more mentions of the presidential search - such as an update in November 2010 on The Statewide Voice, a university publication (online only?  I don't know) from Board chair Cynthia Henry, asking university 'stakeholders' to send in names of good candidates and that they were hoping to have finalists visit campuses in February.  Most of the links there now get me this:

And finally, I'd remind you of the Juneau Empire citation already listed:
"The process to select a new leader has been shrouded in secrecy and is facing some criticism in Juneau. . .

2015 Search

This search like the 1998 and 2010 searches, is far more secretive than the 1990 search.  There are two official locations for updates on the presidential search.  One in UA Public Affairs  page which has two announcements - one in January 27, 2015 which announces there will be a search and one on June 4, 2015 that says the Board has selected one finalist.  Here's what we learn from the January 27 announcement:

A January 27, 2015 announcement says 
The University of Alaska Board of Regents approved a presidential search plan at its Jan. 22 and 23 meeting in Anchorage. Academic Search, Inc. has been contracted to facilitate a focused search effort with the goal of approving a new president in May 2015.  
Regent Mary K. Hughes will lead the search process and chair an ex-officio presidential search advisory committee composed of board members; student, faculty and staff representatives; UA Foundation leaders; and members of the public. The role of the committee will be to review candidates and recommend a short list of candidates to the Board of Regents whose authority it is to hire the university president. Once finalized, a list of committee members will be posted on the presidential search website (
So what's the search plan they approved?  The announcement doesn't say - compared to the 1990 search which at least had a detailed timeline. (see below)

I looked to the Board of Regents minutes for Jan 22 and 23.  They show the discussion of the presidential search was held in executive session and the minutes do not discuss a plan other than they will hire a search firm. The minutes, actually, say almost nothing at all of substance. 

The Board of Regents' President Search page mentioned in the announcement above includes  the same two announcements that were on the Public Affairs page.  That's good to have them in different places. More chances for people to find them.  The search page also includes the names and affiliations of the search committee and information useful to potential candidates, like the position description.  It would appear that the Board did the position description on their own  unlike the 1998 search when the Board president said:
. . . we want to guarantee that they [university constituents] all have adequate opportunities to help the regents define the qualities and attributes of the university president,"
If the 2015 Board did write the position description on their own, did they do it in that executive session at the Jan 22 Board meeting?  I don't know that they did, but if so, I'm not sure how they can claim that to be a legitimate action to perform in executive session.  And if not, when did they do it?

The President Search page has three announcements as I write this.  Two are the same ones listed on the Public Affairs page, plus they have an April 16 announcement (which I assume was inadvertently left off the Public Affairs page) saying that
"the UA search advisory committee has forwarded to the Board of Regents a number of candidates for the board's further review."
I have since learned from email communication with Board Chair Jo Heckman, that the committee gave the Board the four candidates who were the finalists.  One withdrew that same day, and after interviews and other checks, the Board decided to only forward one candidate to the public.

As of late Monday, there's a new link on the President Search page - in a different place from the other "Recent News" announcements I've been talking about - that gives the schedule of the single candidate's campus visits.  It's not on the Public Affairs page.

 [I know this is fairly detailed, but the basic point is that someone looking for these things finds different information in different places and the places do require some looking around to find.  The new information on the campus visits at least was sent out via campus email lists for everyone to be aware of.  This is a positive step.  Though the visits are only a week away.  And if you want information about the candidate - like his resume - you have to go back to the June 4 announcement. My point in going into this much detail is to document things rather than make broad generalizations. My hope is that the people in charge of these things might read this as detailed constructive feedback they can take action on.]

I'd also note here that I emailed questions to some of the search committee members and responses from them were consistent:  the process is confidential and we're not allowed to talk about it.  My understanding of a representative committee (which this really wasn't) was so the community could talk to their reps and find out what was going on.  One responded that he would get back to me later in the week, but he did not.  One person forwarded my email to the chair of the Board of Regents who sent me a warm email, but it basically explained why my questions couldn't be answered.  In response to my follow up email, I got another somewhat more substantive email which I'll address later. 

Compared to the 1990 and 1998 searches, this one has been done out of public sight.  It's more like the 2010 search.

3:  Number of finalists and their backgrounds. and Process for candidates to visit campuses.  

If you are exhausted at this point, imagine how I feel. I've been trying to put this together for several weeks now.   But this section should be more straightforward, the measures are more concrete.


There were four finalists who visited the campuses over a four week period and also participated in fairly extensive media exposure.  (See below for the documents which describe this.)  All four were men all four came from academia and doctorates.  


There were two finalists - a retired army general and a PhD Chemist who was a Provost in Michigan.  Both male.  Both candidates and their wives visited the three campuses. 


There were three finalists, one female was the only candidate with a doctorate  (a PhD) and she had experience running a university outside.  There was a retired Air Force general who was head of the Alaska Railroad.  He did have some higher education leadership experience when he was head of the Air Force Academy.  The third candidate was Chancellor in Juneau.

Their campus visits were unique.  All three came on the same day and the same time and people switched rooms after an hour or so to see the other candidate.  My post on this is called it Speed Dating


Although the search advisory committee, with a large contingent of regents, offered four candidates to the Board, one withdrew and the Board, after interviews, decided to forward only one name.  That candidate will visit the three main campuses the week of July 6, it was officially announced yesterday.   There was no mention of media.  When I asked the final candidate for an interview several weeks ago via email, he wrote back that he would be happy to meet but on advice from the Board of Regents search executive he was waiting until the campus visits.

The move from open, shared campus governance to closed, more top down governance is happening across the US.  It's not a good sign for higher education.  I can understand that regents get impatient with the process of shared governance.  They take much longer and the committees could be run more efficiently and still allow for a high level of participation.  The real benefit is that the people participating and their constituents know what happened and are more likely to trust the process and support the final outcome.

My two communications from the chair of the Board of Regents suggest to me that she is sincerely trying to do as good a job as possible.  I feel the process could have been much more open.  She also made important points about the relative economic health of Alaska and the Lower 48 today and the competitive disadvantage Alaska has today.  But this discussion is for another time.

I'll try to start getting up more information about the candidate before his visits.



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