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President’s search halted at Auburn University – News: noteworthy people, programs, funding, and technological advances in the world of higher education – Brief Article

Al Branch

At press time–in a move to help defuse hard feelings and confusion in the process–Auburn University’s Board of Trustees temporarily postponed taking a vote to search for a new president to replace dismissed president William Muse. Muse, who board members say told them on numerous occasions that he did not intend to stay on past his contract expiration date of March 2002, was dismissed earlier in order to begin the search process. The move was seen as controversial partly because students, faculty and other administrators were caught off-guard by the decision, according to published reports.

Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman had also requested the postponement. The board vowed to be more forthcoming with the public about the process, according to officials.

William Walker is currently serving as interim president at Auburn and will continue to do so through the search process. The university’s trustees were expected to take a vote on when and how to start the search in late August.

Echoing sentiments from the public, Siegelman had asked the trustees to delay starting a search for a new president because of campus distrust over the process. In recent months, school faculty, students and alumni have asked trustees to halt the search and accused the board of mismanaging the university and improperly dismissing Muse.

In the face of those complaints, the board made several minor changes in its bylaws, namely promising to discuss matters with the president’s office before holding any talks with university employees and to hold those talks at regular committee Or full-board meetings, according to published reports. The trustees also approved a bylaw requiring committees to provide public notice of meetings and to maintain minutes during meetings, answering a charge from the Alabama Press Association that the board was not holding open meetings.

Despite the desire to hold more public hearings, a consultant recently told the board that an open process in picking a president could be “catastrophic.”

“If all names are public from the outset, the pool of candidates is microscopic,” William Weary, a consultant to the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, was quoted as telling the board. “Sitting presidents will not apply. There may be individuals whose careers are irreparably damaged if their names are revealed, so you must balance the public’s right to know with a candidate’s right to privacy.”

COPYRIGHT 2001 Professional Media Group LLC

COPYRIGHT 2001 Gale Group