Pitzer College’s formation of a secondary search committee of students, faculty and staff is the next step in the search for a new permanent president after former president Laura Trombley's departure in June.
The committee, whose members will be announced this week, will meet with and interview the final three to four presidential candidates. Student Senate Secretary Chance Kawar PZ ’17 described the panel as “in part a compromise between the Board of Trustees and students, staff and faculty who felt that they wanted to have more of a voice in this process.”
According to Kawar, the current search, when it first began, had seemed more closed than Pitzer's previous presidential searches, with less input from students and professors. The 2014-15 Pitzer Student Senate had even approved a resolution on March 1 to express its concern about not having enough student opinion on the committee. The Senate Executive Board then attended the March 7 Board of Trustees meeting to ask for more student representation.
“They've always had a very open process,” Kawar said. “In the past we've always had at least two students, sometimes three, sometimes even four students who have served on the search committee.”
Kawar attributed the change in attitude to Don Gould, a trustee and chair of the Board’s investment committee, who has, as of late, served as a public face and voice for the Board. Gould has been involved in many signifciant decisions at Pitzer, including the decision to divest Pitzer's endowment from fossil fuels.
Gould declined to comment, but cited an update published Oct. 5 on the Pitzer website as being the Board's statement. The update detailed the creation of the secondary search committee and announced that Professor Alex Juhasz will replace Professor Stu McConnell as the committee’s faculty representative. McConnell stepped down from the position for health reasons.
The search’s strict confidentiality policy forbids members of the search committee from disclosing any information to the public. The Pitzer community beyond the committee itself will not learn who any of the presidential candidates are until the race is won and the president is chosen.
Numerous students and faculty members feel that the search process violates Pitzer’s principle of shared governance. A motion to halt the search process, first suggested by Professor Paul Faulstich, has been put forth within the Faculty Executive Committee (FEC).
“An open search is not necessarily a just search, but a closed search is necessarily unjust,” Faulstich said. “Ultimately, my own concern is not so much about outcome as about process.”
Faulstich added that he would ask the faculty representatives to share his belief that “a shift toward a more open search would show candidates that we are a flexible, responsive community.”
Juhasz defended the strict confidentiality policy. According to Juhasz, the confidentiality is meant to protect candidates’ privacy, especially the ones in notable positions.
“We have people who are sitting presidents applying for this job, people who are deans and people who run organizations,” Juhasz said.
Should a current workplace find out that a candidate was looking for a job at Pitzer, “it would compromise their ability to do their job and so it is industry practice at this point for searches to have confidentiality to protect the candidates,” she said.
Juhasz also emphasized the importance of confidentiality when looking to encourage diversity in the presidential running.
“Women and people of color in particular need these kinds of mechanisms of safety,” she said.
Kawar said that the Board of Trustees has shown “no willingness” to change the search process.
“I think that's why a lot of people are pointing to the secondary review panel as a sort of compromise in how the process is being handled,” Kawar said.