On Friday, Binghamton University’s efforts to find a new president suffered a serious setback. SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher has rejected both of BU Council’s finalists for the position. And where we go from here is far from certain.

It’s been more than a year since Lois DeFleur announced that she would retire and walk away from her 20-year tenure as president at BU. The process to fill her rather large shoes at this University began soon after. Hundreds of applications and months of work by multiple committees later, we could be back to square one. Here’s how the process was supposed to work:

The BU Council, made up of nine professionals and one student, was in charge of the operation. It organized a Presidential Search Committee, whose job was to sort through the pile of applications, as well as seek out prospective candidates who may not have otherwise applied. The Search Committee also approved a “profile” of an ideal candidate — essentially a wish list of qualifications for the next president — which was approved by Zimpher last April.

The Search Committee carved out a list of five finalists from the hundreds and passed the list back to the BU Council. The BU Council, after publicly unveiling the finalists, narrowed the list to three. The list of finalists then moved on to Zimpher. It was at this point that the process stalled; Zimpher was supposed to pick a final candidate for the SUNY Board of Trustees’ final approval, but instead — after months of keeping BU waiting — she opted to announce that none of the finalists were deserving.

BU is now stuck at the second-to-last step — and we don’t know how many steps (much less months) we were just set back. Zimpher informed the BU Council of her decision by way of a letter on Friday, but she didn’t make her reasoning clear.

Zimpher’s scant one-page letter — which the chair of the BU Council, Kathryn Grant Madigan, was only made aware of after a reporter called her for comment regarding it — contained not a clue as to why the finalists were not up to snuff.

In it, Zimpher essentially spouted a litany of platitudes.

“I am keenly focused on enhancing Binghamton’s great strengths,” she wrote. “Selecting a campus president is one of the most important responsibilities I have as chancellor …”

The official rejection was tucked neatly into the second paragraph, immediately after she praised the finalists for their “consistent record of excellence in their careers and as individuals.”

Both BU and the chancellor agreed on list of criteria for a new president last April. Madigan told Pipe Dream that the finalists met the two parties’ criteria, but they seemingly did not meet Zimpher’s, despite their excellent records.

Short term, we don’t know what happens next. Madigan has said that she will try to work closely with Zimpher to avoid another breakdown. But how can the presidential search process restart now that Zimpher has seemingly voiced a vote of no confidence in the BU Council? Can the Council re-recruit potential presidents in good faith?

Though we have no major qualms with Interim President C. Peter Magrath, at this point we’re not even sure if he will return. Zimpher’s letter made it clear she wishes for him to stay on, but in an official statement, he said he would only consider it.