CSU Bakersfield, as well as all public universities, should make the search for the new president an open search.
Finding CSUB’s next president should be a democratic process, not an oligarchical one.
Oligarchical systems are ruled by a select few.
Recently, Chancellor Timothy White announced that the search for CSUB’s next president would be a closed search.
He attempted to justify this at the Presidential Search Open Forum held at the Doré Theatre on Oct. 30.
White said the best people for the position would only apply if they were guaranteed secrecy.
White then called it a “confidential search” rather than a “closed search.”
He is not kidding anyone by rephrasing a closed search; furthermore, even in a closed search, information can be leaked.
Having a current employer find out about a job search is a problem most people face in today’s world.
It’s a risk that almost everyone has to take at some point in their career.
Somehow, and even in spite of this problem, people who are even in the highest level careers manage to find better ones.
Why should the individual applying for the position of CSUB’s next president be exempt?
There is no doubt that the CSU system would receive resumés from many highly qualified candidates, even in an open search.
For example, CSUB’s current President, Horace Mitchell, was hired through an open search.
CSUB Provost Jenny Zorn was hired through an open search as well.
Both were well-qualified candidates who have done great things for CSUB.
Because it was an open search, both Mitchell and Zorn were able to tour the campus and meet the campus community.
In turn, they had an idea of what the culture at CSUB was like before being hired.
Faculty and students also had the chance to meet Mitchell and Zorn as candidates in an open forum.
This helped generate support through transparency.
An open search ensures transparency with the pool of candidates.
It also helps with deciding how well the candidate would represent the diversity of the students on the CSUB campus.
An open search also ensures the new president has a grasp of what the general public goes through in life, including having to find a better position.
The CSUB Academic Senate, as well as many other faculty senates in the CSU system, have expressed their disagreement with the closed search policy.
A closed search is a secret kept from all but a fortunate few. It is elitist.
At the open forum, Aaron Hegde, a member of the Academic Senate and an economics professor, stood and read a statement from CSU Senator John Tarjan.
The statement repeated something Tarjan was sure the panel had probably heard from many sources.
“Your task for finding the best fit for CSU Bakersfield and Kern County will be hindered by a closed search,” stated Tarjan.
The disturbing fact is that the chancellor continues on the closed search path, against the wishes of both faculty and students, showing a disregard to the democratic process.
It demonstrates an attitude of and a belief in oligarchy.
The closed search goes against the core values that CSUB students and faculty, as well as Americans in general, hold dear.
“We teach these democratic principles at the university. I understand, Chancellor White, your explanation of the reasons for the closed search. But it’s really the process that we teach, rather than the outcome, so this is where a lot of us are a little disappointed,” said Hegde.
So why the continued insistence by White on a closed search process?
A closed search can only generate a general attitude of resentment and suspicion, as well as cynicism.
The attitude was exemplified by the low attendance at the Open Forum.
Where is the proof that any suggestions from those audience members who attended will be truly considered by the committee?
Where is the proof that all qualified applicants are being considered, and not just a handful of them?
These are all issues that arise from a lack of transparency.
The American Association of University Professors stated in their Nov. 3, 2015, release that, “The rationale for such secrecy is that open meetings discourage applications from highly qualified candidates, although no evidence has ever been offered to suggest that this is in fact the case.”
Making the search an open one allows the candidate to get to know the people and hence, the culture of the institution in advance.
The next president must have a deep appreciation of CSUB’s culture, and must be willing to honor all students, regardless of race or status.
Students, who are paying for their education, and faculty, who are receiving a new boss, should have a say in who is in charge of the education offered.
Everyone should have a say, and not through one “representative,” who is supposedly reporting on what the masses want.
ASI President Mariela Gomez was selected to represent the students’ voices.
However, she is only in the advisory committee. White will have the final say in who becomes the new president.
How do we know the suggestions given to White and the Trustees committee will be taken into consideratioin?
How do we know Chancellor White doesn’t already have a candidate pre-selected for the position?
The whole point of democracy is to have all the people in a society involved in the decision of who their leaders will be.
Transparency and inclusion are key to a thriving democracy and would allow the students, faculty, and staff to have some peace of mind.
A closed search does not have these values.
A closed search demonstrates the values of an oligarchy, where a very wealthy and fortunate few are making decisions that affect an entire society.
In this instance, it’s CSUB’s society.