The Oregon State University Board of Trustees on Friday approved the profile it will use to search for the university’s next president. The profile is one of a number of steps the state’s largest university is taking to respond to vocal criticism it received after the public ouster of its last permanent president.
The Presidential Leadership Profile includes the broad qualities and qualifications expected for the new leader. It was developed with input from the OSU community through listening sessions and an online survey, though much of it remains similar to the profile used for the school’s last presidential search.
Approval of the profile marks the next step in hiring a new president of Oregon’s largest university.
Along with specific qualifications and expectations for the position, the 41-page document also serves as a recruitment tool with information about the university and its history to attract candidates.
“It serves an opportunity to showcase OSU as an internationally recognized public research university, a university committed to its land grant mission and to inclusive excellence,” OSU Board Chair Kirk Schueler said Friday.
Those marketing and recruitment efforts will be key to a more open search process compared to years past.
OSU’s Board selected the university’s last president, F. King Alexander, using a closed and confidential search process. Alexander resigned last spring following reports that he had mishandled sexual misconduct allegations at his previous school — Louisiana State University.
At the urging of campus community members, OSU’s Board committed to a more open process — in which finalists will visit campus and meet with community members — though, some of the search will still remain confidential, including interviews of semi-finalists and the selection process.
After Alexander’s resignation, the OSU Board expressed repeatedly that it would work to build back trust with the campus community.
OSU Faculty Senate President Erika McCalpine said Friday that faculty members are concerned about the presidential search, but the board has been adequately keeping them updated on the process.
“It really helps to reestablish trust and build the bridge back between administration and faculty,” McCalpine said.
Though the extra transparency has been positive for many community members, that partially open process has downsides, according to the outside consultants working with Oregon State. The visibility of candidates most likely means OSU will not attract a sitting university president, as those leaders may not want to put their current job in jeopardy by publicly pursuing a job at another school.
“There’s a public part to this, so that may limit us a bit,” said David Bellshaw at OSU’s last board meeting in December. Bellshaw is a partner with Isaacson, Miller — the firm assisting the university in its presidential search.
For the most part, the qualifications in the leadership profile are broad. The profile lists 15 ideal qualities including a “proven track record” of advancing diversity and equity efforts; leadership and management experience at a research-focused institution; and great communication skills, among other expectations.
The majority of those qualifications are in essence identical to the ones that led to former president Alexander’s hiring.
Multiple board members noted Friday that when the search reaches the point of producing presidential candidates, there must be work done to prioritize which of the multitude of qualifications are most crucial.
“You have the same problem we had last time, which is there are so many things that we want in a president, and when it comes time to consider candidates, you’re going to have to come to a decision about which are more important,” Trustee Darry Callahan said. “What we did last time was we basically ranked them to provide more emphasis on some and less on others.”
Board Chair Schueler noted that OSU’s Presidential Search Advisory Committee will be responsible for creating that matrix of prioritizing qualifications for candidates. That committee is made up of some OSU board members, faculty, students, administrators as well as current University of Oregon President Michael Schill.
Following the board’s approval, the leadership profile moves to the Search Advisory Committee. Its members will revise the profile and pass it along to the search firm — Isaacson, Miller — to begin outreach to potential candidates.