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Appalachian State University’s Chancellor Search Committee Votes for a Closed Search Process

by Madison V. Fisler

Oct. 15, 2013. Appalachian State University’s Chancellor Search Committee met today in the Rough Ridge Room in the Plemmons Student Union. Along with the search committee, Jerry Baker from Baker & Associates, the search firm selected on Aug. 27 to assist the committee in the recruiting and screening of candidates to succeed Kenneth E. Peacock, who announced his plans to step down once a successor is named. 

Baker has worked with 130 universities with similar searches and said, “Appalachian is a real success story and I am excited to be working with you. We are about to make a decision with an very long impact.”

At the meeting, the committee voted to conduct a closed search, where information about potential candidates will be kept confidential, rather than an open search. This decision reflected the encouragement of UNC System President Tom Ross, who at the Aug. 27 meeting encouraged the committee to commit to a closed search. Though he encouraged a closed search, Ross urged the committee to “listen to the voices of faculty, staff, parents, alumni and the community,” during the duration of the search.

All but three present members of the Chancellor Search Committee who were present at the meeting voted for a closed search, after a lengthy discussion of the merits and detriments of both styles of selection. 

Dr. Chris Thaxton, a faculty member of the university’s physics department, voiced concerns about a closed search further damaging an already tense situation within the university that exists between faculty and administration.

“We have to be sensitive to the fact that there’s a lot of distrust, bifurcation, separation; what holds this community together is trust,” Thaxton said.

“I understand the benefits of a confidential search, but we may be able to use this as an opportunity to heal this campus.” 

The argument for a closed search mostly revolved around the fact that a closed search will yield a substantially larger pool of potential candidates, as candidates will not be scared off by the risk of having their names publicized while they are still seated in another position. 

Student Body President Dylan Russell, who represents the student body on the committee, voiced his opinion in support of a closed search.

“The cabinet is in favor of a closed search, and so is the student body,” Russell said. “We want to attract the best candidates possible.” 

North Carolina is a state that does not participate in the “Sunshine Law,” which would make meetings, records, votes, deliberations and other official actions available for public observation, participation and inspection. In states like Florida, open searches for a chancellor would be mandated.

In response, Dr. Thaxton replied, “I didn’t mean to say that a closed search is unethical. I mean to say that the sense of trust has eroded.” 

After more than two hours of debate, a vote was held and the motion carried that the search for the next chancellor of Appalachian State University will be a closed one. 

The rest of the process from this point is as follows:

After a consultant is selected, the recruitment process will begin, where advertising and screening of candidates will begin in ernest. Finally, three candidates will be selected from the pool of candidates to be given to President Tom Ross who will then submit the candidates to the Board of Governors for approval. The Board of Governors can either approve a candidate or reject the pool, beginning the process again. 

Chancellor Ken Peacock announced his decision to step down as chancellor in April. For more information, read the story here

For more information about the search process or other search related topics, click here