By Shelby Brown —
The third listening tour drew more than 80 people to discuss qualities they’d like to see in U of L’s next president. At the Jan. 18 session, speakers said candidates must have an academic background.
Professor Avery Kolers said U of L’s next president must have roots in faculty and understand academic freedom. Kolers mentioned threats of cuts to academic programs.
“A president has to come from the faculty to appreciate the importance of academic programs,” Kolers said.
Kolers said it was important not only for candidates to visit campus, but for the trustees themselves to spend more time on campus as well.
“I think these two days are the only times most of the trustees have been to this campus since they were appointed, other than for their own meetings. Trustees should be visiting departments and getting to know people,” Kolers said.
Presidential search committee chair Bonita Black said finalists would have the opportunity to visit the university for open forums. The visits aren’t mandatory, but encouraged by the trustees. The panel said after hearing concerns during yesterday’s sessions, they’ve opted for candidates who don’t want to visit the university publicly to meet with the Redbook Committee, senior leadership and faculty representatives.
Communications professor Michael Cunningham read the list of qualities assembled by the Louisville chapter of the American Association of University Professors. The first one was an appreciation for shared governance.
“We’re looking for an academic to lead academics,” Cunningham said.
Speakers inquired about the diversity of the candidate pool. Bill Funk of the search firm said multiple women and minorities had applied for the position.
The topic of the closed search brought up concerns about transparency. Faculty member Elizabeth Riley said the decision to close the search further eroded trust between the board and constituencies.
“We’ll be very disappointed if someone is chosen that we can’t trust,” Riley said.
Graduate Student Council president Lily Assgari said perseverance is a quality needed in the next president. She said the next president must be willing to fight for U of L.
“It’s best not to hide the challenges we face from the next president,” Assgari said.
Academic coordinator Andrew Grubb said U of L’s next president should take the job for the opportunity to make the university better.
“I would like somebody who doesn’t really want the job, which sounds a little paradoxical, but what I mean by that is someone who rejects the trappings, right? Someone who’s not in it as a resume line or anything like that but somebody who really sees the reclamation project that’s here,” Grubb said.
At the end of the session, trustee Jim Rogers said he was impressed by the heart and compassion from the people he’s heard the last two days. He praised faculty and staff’s tenacity to continue to work at U of L despite challenges. Rogers said he’s learned a lot from the sessions. He said he was shocked by the duration and effects of the salary freeze.
“Sometimes staff feels like a second class citizen and how do we address that? So, I think it’s got to be somebody very open,” Rogers said.
The final listening tour was held in the University Club ballroom at 6 p.m.
The application deadline for U of L’s next president is Feb. 15. So far there are 45 candidates. Black expects 20 more to apply.
Photo by Shelby Brown / the Louisville Cardinal