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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Editorial: Eliminate the illusion

    “”The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.””
    -George Bernard Shaw

    Number of UA presidential candidates announced Jan. 18: four.

    Days between announcement and first candidate visit: two.

    Days devoted to public discussion on candidates: four.

    Days between last candidate’s visit and announcement that Robert Shelton is the next UA president: two.

    Numbers don’t lie. But apparently campus bigwigs overseeing the presidential search process do.

    From the beginning, members of the presidential search committee vowed that the selection process would be as open and public as possible. Everyone was going to have an opportunity to partake in selecting the UA’s next leader.

    There were open forums to discuss the characteristics of a good leader and what type of person the UA would need at the helm during these tenuous times. The public weighed in – and search committee members said they were listening.

    But perhaps the greatest farce in “”public input”” came Jan. 20 through last Wednesday, when all four candidates came to the UA and were grilled by a vast array of campus constituencies.

    The candidates were frank and passionate, and community members were attentively listening. But the question remains: Was the search committee?

    With so little time between the last forum and the announcement Friday, it seems highly unlikely that the public had any real input to the process at all. Indeed, the search committee appears to have had its mind made up before Shelton, the first to visit campus, even crossed the UA Mall.

    To be sure, Shelton appears to be a great pick for the UA. He is billed as a conscientious administrator with a comprehensive knowledge of the complexities of a major university. He seems eager and excited to expand the work of Focused Excellence and will serve the UA well.

    But Shelton’s selection aside, it appears that members of the search committee have paid lip service to the public and a belief in an open and deliberate process.

    Faculty and community members were asked to fill out feedback forms and most certainly a great number were filed with the search committee. It seems highly unlikely that the committee would have had the time to carefully review the comments made on paper and in public, debate and choose, given such a short time between the conclusion and ultimate selection.

    Far more likely is the prospect that search committee members picked their pony prior to the short list’s announcement. Shelton’s trip, and his private glad-handing with Likins and other campus power brokers, reaffirmed what members of the committee knew all along – that Shelton had the presidency.

    The forgone conclusion seems logical enough. However, it undermines the process and the spirit with which Deborah Freund, Tom Campbell and Yash Gupta came to campus.

    The brevity of the entire process speaks volumes about the lack of public involvement. Members of the search committee should have been open with the public from the get go, letting everyone know that they were calling the shots and wouldn’t have time for real public input.

    That would’ve been a far more open and honest statement than a semester’s worth of talk about the public process and scrutiny the final candidates would face. While terrible, such a statement would have been far more straightforward than the smoke and mirrors that glossed last week’s public forums.

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