University of Michigan regents keep quiet about search for new president

By David Jesse

Detroit Free Press

 

(MCT) — The University of Michigan Board of Regents is remaining tight-lipped about its search to replace President Mary Sue Coleman, but education experts say the university should have no trouble attracting high-caliber candidates.

The search is occurring behind closed doors because state law allows regents to keep presidential searches secret. University officials aren’t saying whether their quest to replace Coleman — who plans to leave at the end of the academic year — is just starting or nearly complete.

Scott Jaschik, editor of Inside Higher Ed,an online trade publication covering universities and colleges, said he suspects the hunt for her replacement is heating up.

“These aren’t jobs where whomever is selected just gives two weeks’ notice to their current employer,” Jaschik said.

The board, through U-M spokesman Rick Fitzgerald, declined to give any update on the search when asked about it by the Free Press.

Jaschik said he expects Michigan will have a strong pool of candidates, especially because they can keep their names private. The university has not revealed the salary range for the job; Coleman earns $603,357.

“Michigan is one of the great universities,” Jaschik said. “This is a premier job. It definitely appears to be one of the top presidencies.”

Last fall, the board held a series of meetings with faculty, staff, students and the community seeking input on what’s desired in the next president. Students talked extensively about the need to find someone who would hold costs down.

U-M might follow other universities in considering candidates outside academia. Last year, Purdue University hired then-Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels to be its president. More recently, the University of California system hired then-Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to take over.

Jaschik said top academic schools generally don’t bring in nontraditional presidents. The complexity of the institution is a factor, as is the role of the faculty in the decision. In U-M’s case, a recent fight by faculty to halt a shared services plan might apply pressure to the board to appoint someone with an academic background.

“Imagine the outcry if someone who didn’t have a PhD and was a former CEO of a company announced that plan?” Jaschik said.

An oft-overlooked consideration is how candidates will handle athletics. That certainly could come into play at U-M, with its storied athletic programs.

“It’s harder to be a president at a university with big-time athletic programs,” Jaschik said. “If you haven’t dealt with that issue, it can be hard for someone to learn.”

A number of presidents at other institutions have ties to Michigan, making them potentially attractive candidates, but U-M officials won’t say whether they’d prefer someone connected to the university. When Coleman was hired a dozen years ago, she was the president of the University of Iowa and didn’t have ties to U-M.

Coleman’s last day is July 31, but her contract says the board can appoint someone before that. In that case, Coleman would become president emerita and “perform such duties as are mutually acceptable to the regents and to her.”

The regents are not scheduled to meet in public this month. Instead, the board will gather for two days of meetings in New York City.

Board members said they planned to hold a number of donor meetings. This one is expected to include Bill Bowen, president emeritus of Princeton University; Peter Salovay, president of Yale University; Ed Miller, retired executive vice president for medical affairs at Johns Hopkins University, and Mike Johns, retired executive vice president for medical affairs at Emory University.

avatar

Posted by Tribune News Services

Leave a Reply