Editorial: Little need for search committee secrecy

Arizona Daily Wildcat
September 15, 2005

At its first meeting last week, the presidential search committee charged with replacing President Peter Likins took great pains to underscore a curious point - that the names of prospective candidates would remain under tight wraps until the finalists were announced.

Odd as it may seem that secrecy would be the overarching theme for a committee charged with such a great responsibility, the committee did offer a rationale that, at least on its face, doesn't seem particularly unreasonable.

According to Student Regent Ben Graff, if a candidate is revealed to be a nominee for a different post at a different university, the candidate might come to be resented at his or her own university.

"You will have candidates that hold high administrative positions across the country," Graff told the Arizona Daily Wildcat. "The only way you're going to attract high-caliber people is if they are nominated without their names going public."

Attractive though such reasoning may seem, the fact remains that the UA community deserves a full disclosure of all candidates. Secrecy might provide a convenient cover for those who are interested in leaving their current institutions, but if they make it as finalists, that veil will eventually be lifted anyway.

Essentially, whatever advantage confidentiality might bestow does not outweigh the value of public information, especially for a student population whose say in the whole process has already been significantly reduced.

Student representation on the 31-member committee already stands at a paltry two (Graff and Associated Students of the University of Arizona President Cade Bernsen), and to say that students will now only be able to make a selection from the group of finalists (as opposed to all prospective candidates) renders us mere spoon-fed consumers.

Granted, many students might fail to make the connection between their lives and that of the university president. Nonetheless, a university's president is not a mere figurehead - he or she will determine the aims of the university and the means to obtain them in the years to come.

Thus, with such an enormous stake in the selection process, students can ill afford to be removed from any part of the process. Simply put, what students lack in representation, they deserve in the form of information.

Opinions board

Opinions are determined by the Wildcat opinions board and written by one of its members. They are Caitlin Hall, Ryan Johnson, Damion LeeNatali, Aaron Mackey, Mike Morefield and Tim Runestad.