APSCUF speaks on presidential search

Category:  News
Thursday, February 21st, 2019 at 11:24 AM

The Edinboro chapter of the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties (APSCUF), hosted a faculty forum on Feb. 12 to discuss qualities they’re hoping for in the next university president. 

“One of the things that is hard about finding a president is that there are so many important attributes; I mean, this person is leading a huge enterprise, this person is leading our students, our staff, our coaches, [and] business owners of the region. There are so many constituents that need to interact with the president of Edinboro University...It’s a tough process searching for the right person to fit that position,” said Edinboro APSCUF president Dr. Marc Sylvester in an interview after the private meeting. 

“We would like this person to have a good reason to come to Edinboro. [It should be] someone who wants to invest in us, not someone who is along their career path and this is a stopping point,” he continued. 

It was reported by the American Council of Education in 2016 that the average tenure of a university president is six and a half years. Edinboro has endured quite a few more than that average would bear out. 

“We are talking, between interim presidents, and presidents, seven presidents in the last 12 years. So obviously, stability is an issue in leadership here. Maybe the day when a president comes and works at a university is gone, maybe we’ve passed that era. But seven senior leaders in 12 years? The university just can’t function properly with that amount of transition,” said Sylvester. 

As was reported in The Spectator’s article on the presidential prospectus, released Feb. 4, the university has gone through many changes in the last 12 years, with enrollment, retention and finances being focuses in the prospectus. 

“I think that our three permanent presidents, being Brown, Wollman and Walker, all three of them were first-time presidents,” said Sylvester, in addressing reasons why he believes that stability has been an issue at Edinboro. 

Jeremy D. Brown, who served at Edinboro for four years, was previously provost and vice president for academic affairs at State University of New York, Canton. Julie Wollman, who served Edinboro for four and a half years, and was the longest serving president since Frank G. Pogue, was previously the  vice president for academic affairs at Wheelock College. And H. Fred Walker, who served Edinboro for a little less than two years, was previously the dean of the College of Applied Science and Technology at Rochester Institute of Technology. 

Edinboro, however, is not the only local institution dealing with issues of stability. The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE), as a whole, has seen an increase in the number of presidential searches across the system, and as a result has taken an interest in studying why this is the case. PASSHE conducted a strategic review of the state system in 2017, titled “Strategic Review: Findings and Recommendations.” A portion of the review was dedicated to studying the longevity of presidents across all state schools, while analyzing how to recruit and retain presidents in the long term. According to TribLive, a Pittsburgh news publication, in the last few years, 12 of the 14 state universities have undergone presidential searches, costing $1.5 million.

The study recommended the following on the topic: “Improving the state system’s ability to attract and retain presidents by positioning the state system presidencies as an attractive destination for candidates seeking to lead student-and teaching-focused institutions. This would require ensuring that the state system’s presidencies compare favorably with their AASCU peers on compensation, opportunities to be granted tenure, and other dimensions.”

Discussing further recommendations, it said: “Greatly expanding its role in providing system-wide professional development and facilitating cross-institutional learning and problem solving. Such efforts should include a deep orientation to incoming presidents that explicitly addresses important features of and lessons drawn from working within the state system’s collective bargaining environment.” 

Longevity is not the only attribute APSCUF is looking for in Edinboro’s next president though. 

“We talked about somebody who has a proven track record of shared governance,” Sylvester said. 

Shared governance is a technical term used in academic discourse to describe the ability of an institution to foster collaboration between all stakeholders (students, faculty, staff, etc.).

“Another thing we talked about is somebody who doesn’t want to come here and change us; we are an institution with great history, we’re proud of who we are, and I think we would like a president who comes in and finds our strengths, and finds ways to champion us for our strengths, understands our weaknesses, and helps us work through them, but doesn’t exploit us for those weaknesses,” Sylvester said. 

The presidential search committee hopes to inaugurate Edinboro University’s next president no later than May 1 of this year. APSCUF will meet with candidates for the position when the presidential search committee conducts on-campus interviews.

Shayma Musa | eupnews.spectator@gmail.com

View Our YouTube Channel
Edinboro TV
Find Us on Instagram