Tensions were high Monday during a listening session at Kennesaw State University.
Students and faculty pushed for transparency as the school looks for a new president. They also made it clear that they want a very different hiring process this time around. In the fall of 2016, the Board of Regents hired former Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens to run the school without conducting a search.
Olens’ hiring didn’t sit well with some in the KSU community, not just because of the lack of a search process. Many didn’t like his record of challenging the rights of LGBTQ people. Some saw his appointment as a political favor.
Hank Huckaby, the Regents’ chancellor at the time, said searches are expensive.
“It probably costs anywhere from 200-to-350-thousand dollars,” Huckaby said. “And every time that we go through a national search, we don’t always come out with a winner.”
The Board of Regents has hired Parker Executive Search to find KSU’s next president. The process will cost $120,000.
The university’s search committee voted to make the search process closed, meaning the candidates’ names won’t be made public. That didn’t sit well with some faculty members.
“That’s a really morale-crushing experience to feel that you — as a university faculty member — are so disrespected that you don’t get to see or have any input into who the president is,” said American studies professor Rebecca Hill.
She, and other faculty members, urged officials to consider an open search instead.
“This is a campus where trust has been broken at every level,” said Carmen Skaggs, associate dean for academic support. “If this search process isn’t used to build a bridge back to productivity, we’re in a world of hurt.”
Douglas Moodie, chair of the KSU search committee, said he would ask the committee to revisit the process.
Representatives from Parker attended the meeting to gauge what students and staff are looking for in a new president. Traits included: an academic, a strong fundraiser and a great communicator.
Freshman Vincent Coakley wants someone who’s student-centered.
“One quality I definitely want in a president is somebody that’s willing to communicate with the students, like, going out of his way to … because I feel the students are the reason the school exists,” he said.
The KSU search committee expects to start the process next month. They hope to present three to five finalists to the Board of Regents in May.