The decision to restart the hiring process for a new director to succeed the founder of the Graduate School of Political Management (“GSPM restarts director search,” Feb. 22, 2010, pg. 1), provided Dean Kathleen Burke with a fresh opportunity to seek input from valued constituent groups including alumni and adjunct faculty.
Sadly, actions taken by Burke since that time have continued to escalate the concern of the adjunct faculty and alumni. The fear of most is that her actions threaten the future of the GSPM, putting its pre-eminent position as the “West Point of the political wars,” as the the New York Times called the program, in jeopardy.
Burke has ignored the request outlined in a March 2 e-mail sent to her from 51 adjunct faculty members, including 75 percent of those teaching this semester. We sought inclusion: (a) in drafting the criteria for selecting the search firm; (b) in drafting the criteria to be given the search firm in seeking candidates; and (c) in participating as members of the search committee.
While the well-deserved reputation of the GSPM is based entirely on the reputation of its adjunct faculty, she responded March 3 with only a cursory response: “The parameters of the search are still taking shape, and I will consider your suggestions.”
We have now learned that she has not only ignored the request to meet with adjunct faculty, but that she has reached out to an outside firm to make the choice. This action suggests that the parameters have taken shape and that she has had no intention of considering input from the adjunct faculty and alumni, many of whom are accomplished and esteemed professional political and policy practitioners.
With the commitment of providing useful input, the adjunct faculty has recently completed significant internal work of surveying its members seeking detailed information and experience that could greatly shape the search process and hiring criteria. Seemingly, this input will now be ignored.
The early returns from the survey – which will soon be completed – indicate a consensus on one item. The search committee must include several individuals who have actually managed national and statewide political campaigns, have actually lobbied a bill through the legislature and have actually built national political movements – the basic skills the GSPM teaches. Such people were noticeably absent from the first search. An absence of such individuals who represent the three skills on the committee could well jeopardize the legitimacy of the process yet again.
We remain focused on our primary goal of providing an excellent practical political education for students. We therefore urge Burke to use this selection process as an opportunity to begin to build trust among the GSPM constituent groups by delaying the appointment of a search committee until each constituent group has been provided with a mechanism for recommending potential members.
Edward A. Grefe is an adjunct professor of community advocacy and grassroots politics in the Graduate School of Political Management.