Presidential search committee releases prospectus

Category:  News
Thursday, February 14th, 2019 at 9:17 AM

The Edinboro University Presidential Search Committee has released a prospectus detailing the campus, the surrounding community and including a description of what Edinboro is looking for in its next leader. The prospectus was released on Feb. 4 and it comes after the search committee met for the first time on Jan. 22 to draft a description of the role.

In a phone interview with search committee chair Timothy Wachter on Jan. 17, he listed out some general search criteria. “I know from our perspective, from the perspective of the [Edinboro University] council of trustees, we are looking specifically for someone who is going to be able to provide stability and continue to work with the university community, [and] to implement the plans that we have in order to bring the university back to where we know it can be.”

This statement is reflected in the prospectus. It reads, “Edinboro seeks a President who will embrace the University’s plan for future success and enhance the plan as it is implemented.”

Reading further, the introductory statements of the prospectus offer a whiff of the instability currently facing this university and other educational institutions. “This new President will arrive at a time when the campus is poised to make the changes necessary to sustain Edinboro’s mission and relevance in the face of changing higher-education paradigms, and will lead specific initiatives aimed at a continuing transformation of the campus thinking, practices and culture.” 

The office of the president at Edinboro has been a revolving door of personalities, with six occupying the office in the last 11 years (including interim appointees), and the longest term of those six presidents being just under five years. Simply put, the university has struggled to keep presidents in the long-term.

This is not to mention the university’s financial issues, as previous president H. Fred Walker described in a February 2017 town hall meeting. At the time, he stated: “We’re spending more money than we’re bringing in every year. Act 188 requires by law that we have a balanced budget every year, which we do have a balanced budget every year. The only way we’re balancing the budget is drawing down the reserves.” He continued to explain that in 2013, the university used $7.3 million from the reserves, and in 2016 it used $2.1 million to cover a deficit. A GoErie article at the time of the meeting cited declining enrollment, students departing before their graduation and a “looming $6.2 million deficit” as “major problems” Edinboro faced. 

The prospectus addresses these financial issues gently, presenting the difficulties in a section detailing the role of a president at Edinboro. It reads: “Edinboro’s new President should recognize the enrollment and financial challenges facing higher education in general, and Pennsylvania’s Northwestern region in particular.” Any specific mention of a deficit is not included in this prospectus. 

The prospectus also addresses enrollment and retention, two issues that, along with finances, the university has faced. The document states that through recent adjustment of admissions criteria, the admission rate “in fall 2017 fell to 92.5 percent, from a high of 99 percent just a few years earlier;  [and] in fall 2018, the admission rate fell further to 81.2 percent.” In addition, according to the prospectus, “Edinboro now leads all State System universities in the percent of our incoming class with a high school GPA of 3.0 or higher; [and] in these two years, Edinboro’s percentage is near 90 percent, with the System average in the mid 70-percent range.” 

These admissions changes are not meant to make Edinboro an “elite institution,” according to this document, while EU still aims at “providing broad opportunity.” But the changes were made to enhance the university’s “academic reputation.”

They also tout the second-year retention rate, which has improved from 66 percent in fall 2017, to 73 percent in fall 2018. The document reads: “University leadership recognizes that further improvement is both necessary and possible (in retention). This will be a key focus of the University’s Strategic Plan.” 

In a presumed nod to the Chronicle of Higher Education interview that led to former president Walker’s resignation from the Edinboro office, the prospectus states that the future president should be willing to communicate with outside sources, but with, “sensitivity to the impact those interactions will have on the University.” 

It also states: “Edinboro’s President must demonstrate a managerial approach that emphasizes clear and transparent communication, trust building, a team orientation, and the ability to delegate authority and hold people accountable.” This appears to, again, touch on Walker’s tenure at Edinboro. Following the previously mentioned article, Edinboro Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties (APSCUF) President Dr. Marc Sylvester talked about the discussions faculty were having. In these, they were determining, “if at all, we feel that we can get back to a position of respect and trust.”

 According to the document, interested applicants will apply for the position by emailing a letter of interest, curriculum vitae and five letters of reference to John Thornburgh or Elizabeth Bohan, two consultants from Witt/Kieffer, the firm that is conducting the initial search for Edinboro. The deadline for serious consideration is April 1, with the committee hoping to bring candidates on campus towards the second half of April for visits.

The presidential search committee hopes to inaugurate Edinboro University’s next president no later than May 1 of this year. A copy of the prospectus can be accessed on Edinboro.edu, by searching “Presidential Search.” 

Shayma Musa | eupnews.spectator@gmail.com.

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