Details under wraps for dean search

The Columbian College of Arts and Sciences dean search committee is keeping the names of six finalists under wraps, after months of saying the final leg of the search would be open and transparent.

The committee, along with Provost Steven Lerman, made the decision Thursday not to disclose the names of the final dean candidates, one of whom will take over the University’s largest college, a shift from previous searches.

The first candidate came to campus to meet with a select group of students, faculty and administrators Friday. Committee spokesman James Clark said in an email Thursday that only invited students could attend student meetings, which are not open to the media. The committee also invited full-time faculty to confidential meetings to meet the candidate.

But Clark, also a biology professor, said last week that each candidate would be announced over the undergraduate and graduate student listservs.

“In consultation with the provost’s office, we have decided that the student meeting will be confidential and with selected students,” Clark said. “This is in part to ensure a sufficient turnout, but also to respect any concerns the candidates may have with the effect their interview may have at their home school.”

When committee head Gail Weiss, a philosophy professor, outlined the time frame for the search in November, she said the finalists’ names would be announced before the on-campus interviews. The college also took that route when it last searched for a dean in 2007.

Clark also said in November that if finalists did not want to release their names, it could hurt their chances.

Under fire from her own faculty, Dean Peg Barratt announced with little explanation in May that she would step down this summer. The decision came a month after professors gave her stinging reviews in an internal survey, questioning her leadership.

The on-campus visits will run through March 8, when the committee will select three candidates to submit to University President Steven Knapp and Lerman. Weiss said in November that Knapp asked the committee to provide feedback on the three finalists, but said the committee will not rank them.

Knapp will announce the next dean by late March.

The committee is looking to select candidates with management expertise and fundraising skills. Two years ago, Knapp ordered that all deans must spend at least 40 percent of their time raising money.

In the last major search for a school leader, the Graduate School of Political Management held public forums for finalists to pitch their visions for the college to students, faculty and reporters. Other searches, like the GW Law School’s in 2011, were kept confidential.

A committee of nine Columbian College faculty, along with the consulting firm Witt/Kieffer, has spent the past months reviewing applicants. Two weeks ago, they conducted off-campus interviews with 13 candidates.

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