Wednesday, May 27, 2020

As more input sessions are held, here is what to expect from the presidential search

September 19, 2018
Members of the Presidential Search Committee gather with members of the Board of Trustees at the meeting on the update of the presidential search process at the Hannah Administration Building on Aug. 22, 2018.
Members of the Presidential Search Committee gather with members of the Board of Trustees at the meeting on the update of the presidential search process at the Hannah Administration Building on Aug. 22, 2018. —
Photo by Annie Barker | The State News

MSU is now in the listening phase of the presidential search process. 

Faculty, staff and student leaders of the College of Communication Arts and Sciences, College of Education and WKAR met with members of the presidential search committee at the first community input session held for university academic programs on Tuesday. 

Although the dates and times are not yet finalized, Trustee Dianne Byrum, one of the committee co-chairs, said the committee is working on scheduling around 20 more input sessions. 

These sessions will include open forums for the campus community, other private meetings with university colleges and meetings with campus student groups. 

At the beginning of the week, the presidential search committee held their first-ever input session. It was held for students in the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. 

A separate session for students of the College of Communication Arts and Sciences will be held in October. 

What to expect at the upcoming input sessions 

At each session, members of the presidential search committee will ask students and faculty three pre-written questions that they have the opportunity to respond to. The sessions will not include a question-and-answer period, and each comment is limited to two minutes.

The questions include: 

  • What qualities, characteristics and criteria are desired in a new president of MSU?
  • Higher education is facing many challenges today. What do you consider to be the major challenges facing MSU?
  • Focusing on the future, what do you consider to be important strengths and opportunities for MSU?

Byrum said the committee decided on these particular questions to facilitate the input they need because they're "ultimately the qualifications, the characteristics, the qualities, the criteria" they're looking for.

At each session, the MSU Sexual Assault Crisis Intervention team will hold a safe space for faculty and students who feel uncomfortable or triggered during any part of the discussion. 

What's next in the presidential search process 

The presidential search committee will hold public open forums for the campus community on Oct. 10 and Oct. 11 at the Kellogg Center. 

On Oct. 10, the session will be held in Room Big Ten A and on Oct. 11, it will be held in the Lincoln Room. Both will last from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. The dates, times and locations for the private, college and student group-based input sessions aren't yet finalized. 

After the community input phase of the presidential search process is over, Trustee Melanie Foster, the other committee co-chair, said they will use their notes from the input sessions to develop the criteria for a new president. 

Teresa Sullivan, the former president of University of Virginia who was hired to advise the co-chairs during this process will also be a part of this phase in the process. 

"It'll be a collaborative effort," Foster said. 

The criteria will then be embodied into a "position description" which will be included on the MSU president job posting and made public around the end of October. Based on that position description, they will begin accepting applications for the new president. 

Byrum said a couple of the questions that are being addressed to members of the public during community input sessions, such as what the "major challenges facing MSU" are, will also be asked during candidate interviews. 

Identifying candidates and the initial interviews will begin in November, and final interviews with the MSU Board of Trustees are set to occur in between February and May. 

The Board of Trustees will ultimately decide who the permanent university president will be, and this will be announced in June of 2019.

Recap of the first college input session 

The first college input session, which was held for faculty, staff and student leaders only, did not have as many attendants as the first input session that was held in the Skandalaris Football Center, which Foster said had around 70 people. 

"We didn't know what to expect," Byrum said. "Last night was the student athletes, and that had a phenomenal participation and attendance. This is the first college input session. I think as word spreads, it will be more robust." 

No recording was allowed at the session. 

According to Nicole Szymczak, the senior communications and marketing director for the College of Communication Arts and Sciences and WKAR, this was to create a safe space where people could share their honest thoughts. 

Members of the presidential search committee took handwritten notes. And although this session wasn't a public event, media was still allowed to attend. 

When asked about what qualities, characteristics and criteria were desired in the new MSU president, being committed to dialogue, a good listener, engaging all of the campus community instead of just undergraduate students and someone whose loyalty to the institution "won't get in the way of making big decisions", were all brought up by faculty members. 

When asked about the challenges facing MSU, one faculty member said “re-engaging our best advocates to re-establish trust” has been a challenge. 

"There's not much confidence in the Board of Trustees," another faculty member said when addressing the presidential search committee. 

A student leader in the crowd said, although establishing a new university president is an opportunity for MSU to rebuild, they should still recognize what the university went through. 

Overall, many faculty and staff members from the College of Communication Arts and Sciences, College of Education and WKAR who spoke said they want a president who fosters new opportunities and positive change for the university, without glossing over the negative. 

"We have been in crisis. We know we cannot be what we were last year," a faculty member said. "This opportunity is a complicated one. The university is committed to this vision of possibility." 

Students, faculty, staff and other members of the MSU community can fill out input forms on the presidential search website if they were unable to attend any sessions or have any further comments. 

The presidential search committee said the thoughts, feelings and concerns regarding the presidential search and the listening sessions expressed in these submissions will be taken into account. 

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