UofL faculty members quietly protested the closed presidential search process at the Oct. 2 board of trustees meeting | Photo by Joe Sonka

University of Louisville board of trustees chairman J. David Grissom told reporters Monday morning that the search for new permanent president of the university would still keep the names of all applicants confidential until the trustees make their selection, despite a growing chorus of faculty calling for a more open and transparent process.

Grissom also indicated that a committee of the trustees would soon begin a listening tour on the campus between now and the board’s next meeting on Nov. 20 — in which stakeholders can provide input on what qualities they want UofL’s next president to have — though, the listening tour committee that was supposed to have had its first meeting on Oct. 9 has yet to meet.

At the trustees’ meeting on Sept. 15, Grissom announced that UofL’s presidential search committee — made up of only the 13 trustees — would keep the names of applicants and finalists confidential until one was ultimately hired, arguing that the best candidates wouldn’t apply if their names were made public.

That decision immediately drew an objection from the Presidential Search Faculty Consultation Committee (PSFCC) — a group of faculty formed months earlier under UofL’s policy guidelines that trustees are required to consult with — who told Grissom in a letter that such an entirely closed search would sacrifice transparency and accountability at a time when UofL desperately needs to restore trust, morale and its public image.

Throughout the month of October, groups of faculty and administrators sent letters to Grissom endorsing the points made by the PSFCC, arguing that, at the very least, the names of finalists should be made public so they could meet with constituency groups and garner feedback. Those formally urging Grissom to reconsider a closed search in letters and resolutions include:

  • 19 faculty members of the Brandeis School of Law
  • 152 faculty members and the chair of all 21 departments in the College of Arts & Sciences
  • 36 faculty members of the College of Business
  • 42 faculty members of the Speed School of Engineering
  • 27 faculty members of the School of Interdisciplinary and Graduate Studies
  • 22 faculty members of the University Libraries
  • 8 administrators of the Kent School of Social Work
  • A unanimous vote of the Faculty Senate
  • 12 deans, including those for the schools of Social Work, Nursing, Business, Engineering, Law, Education, Students, Arts & Sciences, Dentistry, Libraries, Public Health and Medicine
  • 4 vice provosts and interim provost Dale Billingsley

Roughly a dozen faculty members showed up to silently hold signs protesting the closed search at meetings of the board of trustees on Oct. 2 and Oct. 18, with Susan Jarosi — a professor of arts history, the president of the UofL chapter of the American Association of University Professors and member of the PSFCC — given the opportunity to express those concerns to trustees at the latter meeting.

After her comments, Grissom told Jarosi that he would invite her back to speak and take questions at a later date, as they had “bigger fish to fry” for the rest of that meeting — which turned out to be the firing of athletic director Tom Jurich.

UofL board of trustees chairman J. David Grissom and interim president Greg Postel | Photo by Joe Sonka

Despite such urging, Grissom told reporters after a meeting of the trustees’ litigation committee Monday morning that the presidential search would remain a confidential process until a new president was hired. He also stated that the listening tours “will begin very shortly” — under the supervision of Bonita Black, the trustee who chairs the listening tour committee — and “will be done between now and Nov. 20,” when the full board of trustees has its next scheduled meeting.

Grissom also noted that William Funk — UofL’s search firm consultant, and one of the country’s most notable university presidential headhunters — would be on campus during this period to participate in the listening tour. Additionally, Grissom said that Funk would be present at the Nov. 20 trustees meeting to “give the board an update on the candidates that he has been able to attract to the search.”

The listening tour committee was formed at the Sept. 15 trustees meeting, but according to UofL spokesman John Karman, the committee has not yet held a meeting and does not currently have one scheduled. At the Oct. 2 trustees meeting, Black stated that the committee would have its first meeting on Oct. 9 to set up a schedule for the listening tours, but such a meeting was never announced publicly.

In defending a closed search, Grissom told the PSFCC in a Sept. 29 letter that it and other faculty groups would be allowed to consult with trustees in the process through participating in the listening tours, adding that the faculty, students and staff each have one representative on the trustees, amounting to “almost 25 percent” of the board.

Enid Trucios-Haynes, the faculty representative on the trustees, signed several of the faculty letters urging Grissom and the trustees to reconsider their closed search process, and reiterated that stance in a statement to IL Wednesday morning.

“I concur with the overwhelming sentiment expressed by faculty from across the University of Louisville that final candidate interviews for the presidential search must be open and the search committee must be expanded,” stated Trucios-Haynes. “The Board must make every effort to reestablish trust and confidence in University governance. This requires that we engage in the difficult task of balancing the need for transparency and the confidentiality concerns of presidential candidates. Given the University’s many challenges, the interests of faculty, as key stakeholders, must not be ignored.”

Will Armstrong, the staff representative on the trustees, did not return an email and voicemail seeking his comment on the search process, and the Staff Senate has not yet posted the minutes from its Oct. 9 meeting.

Vishnu Tirumala, the student government representative on the trustees, told IL that the Student Senate was deliberating a resolution on the search process and was expected to vote on it next week, adding that members were generally “in favor of a more inclusive process that would be at least partially open.”

UofL’s interim president Greg Postel has stated that he is interested in the permanent position, adding that it would be inappropriate for him to weigh in on the search process as he would be one of the applicants for the position.

This story has been updated with the statement by Trucios-Haynes.

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Joe Sonka is a staff writer at Insider Louisville focusing on government, politics, education and public safety. He is a former news editor and staff writer at LEO Weekly and has also freelanced for The Nation and ThinkProgress. He has won first place awards from the Louisville Metro chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists in the categories of Health Reporting, Enterprise Reporting, Government/Politics, Minority/Women’s Affairs Reporting, Continuing Coverage and Best Blog. Email him at [email protected]


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