We doubt that many people in the Baton Rouge area will be closely watching the search for a new president of the University of New Orleans. But the search process recently outlined by the University of Louisiana System seems pretty transparent - and far different from the secretive searches conducted by LSU in recent years to pick its top administrators. The contrast is an instructive one, and the UNO search calls into question the idea that secrecy is necessary to pick top administrator candidates in higher education.
A similar rationale has been used to defend secrecy in searching for public school superintendents. Both the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board and the Lafayette Parish School Board are trying to decide how transparent their respective searches for new superintendents should be.
Gov. Bobby Jindal and the Legislature recently approved moving UNO from the LSU System to the University of Louisiana System. UL System officials plan to pick a new UNO president through a search process that UL officials have used for several years to pick university presidents.
Among other things, the procedure directs that candidates’ applications be scanned and placed on the UL System’s website.
A search committee meets and selects semifinalists from the pool of applicants, as well as those recommended by a search firm. Semifinalists are brought to campus, and they have public interviews with the search committee.
The search committee then recommends finalists for the job, and the finalists are publicly interviewed during a meeting of the UL Board of Supervisors. The board then selects a new university president based on the recommendation of the UL System president.
We don’t like every aspect of this search process. For example, the two-track system, in which some candidates are drawn from a public pool of applicants and others are initially considered through a search firm tends to create varying levels of transparency.
Even so, the UL System’s search procedures seem to afford the public time to consider top contenders for the job before a decision is made. That differs sharply from LSU’s searches in recent years for top administrators, in which those eventually selected for the jobs were brought in at the last minute and essentially rubber-stamped for the job.
We hope UL System officials follow through on their plans to give the public a seat at the table as the next president of UNO is selected.
And we hope LSU officials, as well as members of the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board and the Lafayette Parish School Board, don’t cling to the idea that secrecy is the only way to go in picking top administrators.