Just two decisions remain before the position of the next president of Binghamton University is filled.
The BU Council, which is charged with conducting the search for presidential candidates, has made recommendations to SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher and her executive committee.
This means that the decision is now out of the hands of BU, individually. In the coming weeks, Zimpher will choose a single candidate for recommendation to the SUNY Board of Trustees, who will then make a final determination.
The remaining candidates will meet with Zimpher individually as part of the decision-making process.
Kathryn Grant Madigan, the chair of both the BU Council and the Council’s Presidential Search Committee, said Thursday that the Council has “carefully considered the recommendations of the Search Committee and has now forwarded its finalist recommendations to Chancellor Nancy Zimpher for her consideration.”
She said that the Council is specifically instructed not to rank the candidates in any particular order.
Rather, she said, “we provide them to her with a resume vitae, as well as a statement of their relative strengths and weaknesses.”
Madigan would not comment on how many recommendations were made due to the confidentiality requirements of the search.
Though the official documents governing the selection process state that “the council shall recommend three acceptable candidates to the chancellor for consideration,” a degree of variability was introduced when Susan Jeffords, vice chancellor for academic affairs at the University of Washington Bothell and the only female candidate, withdrew her name from the search.
Madigan, who has been involved in executive candidate searches in other capacities, including non-profit organizations, said this was the first time she had ever served on a search at the University level.
She said that though this experience was difficult to compare with other searches because they were of a different nature, the search process at BU had the advantage of being based on broader official SUNY guidelines that had been developed and refined over a number of years.
She also said that this “made the process a little more structured.”
Madigan said she was struck by the outpouring of input from students, faculty, staff and other members of the BU community.
The Search Committee held open forums with each of the five candidates. Attendance at the forums averaged between 150 and 200 attendees, a turnout that Madigan said was “unusually good.”
Her basis for comparison was the open forums of presidential searches at other schools, which did not generate nearly the kind of interest that the BU community demonstrated.
Madigan said this underscored how engaged the campus is.
“It informs the decision-making. It’s a better process,” she said.
Sumeet Kalantry, the undergraduate representative on the BU Council, was also pleased with the turnout.
“It was nice to see the support the candidates received,” he said.
Madigan pointed out that “despite the fact that it was in the middle of exams, I thought we had a pretty good representation on the part of the students.”
Still, the number of students who attended was typically very low. No more than 10 students attended the forums on average. But that number does not account for a large body of comments individually submitted to the Search Committee.
The transparency of the process at BU is, if anything, an example toward a broader shift in thinking.
Madigan remarked that there is a larger national trend in which candidates for top positions are more demanding of anonymity, as public knowledge of their pursuit of a job elsewhere can create uncomfortable or difficult situations with their current colleagues.
“What’s happening in academe is more and more search committees are acquiescing [to those demands],” Madigan said.
But BU was determined to buck that trend.
“From the very beginning, we wanted to have a process that was as open and transparent as possible,” Madigan said.