Presidential search committee considers silence

Presidential search committee members are facing a pressing question – whether or not to release the names of potential presidential candidates to the public throughout the search process.

In a committee meeting Wednesday, representatives from presidential search firm Witt/Kieffer suggested the search process be closed to the public.

“The traditional method of advancing candidates for the committee would be to have candidates arrive on campus and be announced publicly, have open forums with people interacting,” said John Thornburgh, a consultant for Witt/Kieffer.

“These practices have changed dramatically in higher education – the issue these days is that if you are going to have a candidate be announced publicly before an appointment is made, they’re not even going to get into the search.”

Upon the request, members of the committee voiced their opinions, several said they felt uncomfortable with a closed search. The committee will try to strategize a way to have an open process – without revealing names.

Committee members who are also members of the Board of Regents are expected to discuss the topic further at today’s quarterly board meeting.

Although the process would be closed, and the candidates would not be revealed, Thornburgh assured committee members that candidates could still meet with small constituency groups in a closed setting.

Throughout the week, consultants met with different groups on campus to better understand what the University needs in a president.

The three primary groups Witt/Kieffer met with were students, faculty and staff.


Bob Smith, Witt/Kieffer consultant and former president of Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania, asked students to voice their concerns on the position of presidency at Murray State.

Representatives came from several groups; Alliance, International Students Organization, Student Government Association, Residential College Administration, Black Student Council and representatives from all three Greek councils were present.

The topics discussed ranged from what students wanted to see on campus to what they thought would be best for the community. Several students voiced a desire to have a president who supports Greek Life and the changes those organizations will endure in the future.

On the academic side, students asked Witt/Kieffer to search for a president who would move away from a retroactive standpoint and not be afraid of change.

One student, Julia Hilkey, asked Smith to consider candidates who will stand up for students in Frankfort.

Jeremiah Johnson, SGA president and search committee member, followed up on one student’s desire for more diversity on campus.

“I need a president who will support diversity and inclusion – and our satellite campuses equally,” Johnson said.


Before meeting with Witt/Kieffer consultants, Faculty Senate President Kevin Binfield voiced appreciation for great faculty representation.

After consultants met with 12 faculty members Tuesday afternoon, Binfield said he felt confident in the committee’s ability to represent constituencies.

“I think it was outstanding; I was really pleased to hear from so many different faculty members,” Binfield said.

The search firm prepared questions for faculty and Binfield thought members promoted discussion easily. He also said it was clear the faculty members had consulted their departments ahead of time to address possible concerns.

Binfield also said he agrees with the search committee’s decision to bring in an outside firm to assist with the presidential search. As a member of the former provost search committee, Binfield said he believed the search itself would have run more smoothly with a firm.

“I think we could have attracted a really wide range of candidates,” Binfield said. “Part of the thing the search firm does is active recruiting – they know people; they’re involved in networks of administrators.”


Wednesday morning, 10 members of Staff Congress met with Witt/Kieffer consultants, including its president John Young.

Young also expressed his confidence in the search firm, saying the search committee has strong representation from the staff – Roslyn White, the associate director of recruitment.

The consultants were interested in Staff Congress opinions, according to Young, since the University was chosen this year as one of the “Best universities to work for” by The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Young summed up several items discussed in the meeting: “Members discussed attention to the regional campuses, the need to continue outreach to the surrounding area, that the new president be a good communicator, that he or she would need to be a presence both on campus and in Frankfort and that the lines of communication remain open between the president and the constituency groups on campus.”


Story by Lexy Gross, Editor in Chief