In the latest development of a presidential search process that has faced several unplanned setbacks, SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher stated last Monday that she ordered a reshuffling of the leadership of the Presidential Search Committee.
After months of public contention between Zimpher and Search Committee Chair Kathryn Madigan, Zimpher elevated James Orband ‘81 to co-chair along with Madigan. Orband is a member of the BU Council, which oversees the Search Committee, a 19-person body charged with selecting the next president of Binghamton University.
The dispute began when Zimpher in March rejected the two candidates that the Committee had recommended for president of the University. The Committee had narrowed down a candidate pool of hundreds during an eight-month-long search process before making its choices. To make their choices the committee members used criteria that were approved by Zimpher.
The identities of the rejected candidates have never been disclosed, though they were among five finalists who spoke at public forums on campus last year about their plans and visions for the school.
Madigan publicly admonished Zimpher after Zimpher announced her decision to the press before notifying the Committee or giving the candidates an opportunity to withdraw their applications. If the candidates had the opportunity to withdraw their applications, they could have avoided any possible tarnishing of their reputation.
“Before I had even seen the memo, I had gotten a call from the press,” Madigan said. “We learned about it through [the Press & Sun-Bulletin].”
The Press & Sun-Bulletin also reported in late April that Zimpher intended to make Orband the Committee chair when the presidential search re-starts, and that a SUNY administrator had told Madigan to step aside as chair or be replaced. Madigan told press that she would not step aside.
Zimpher announced in a joint statement with the BU Council that Orband and Madigan will share the chair position. Madigan expressed enthusiasm about the latest change last Monday.
“Having a co-chair is a positive step forward,” Madigan said. “We are all focused on the same goal.”
Monday’s statement from the BU Council indicated that from this point forward, the Committee would provide “periodic updates” to the Chancellor and the SUNY Board of Trustees.
“The enhanced search process includes an open invitation from the Council to both the Chancellor and the SUNY Board to discuss any concerns regarding the committee’s activities,” according to the statement.
??According to Madigan, she and Orband have a meeting scheduled with the Chancellor’s office for May 23.
Katie Howard, the undergraduate student representative on the Committee, said before this week’s appointment of Orband as co-chair that she “doesn’t think that the Chancellor has Binghamton’s best interests in mind.”
She said last week that she still stands by the statement, but she qualified it further.
“I’m just a student on campus, I’m not privy to the politics of the BU Council and Zimpher’s office,” she said.