Faculty, Students Select Search Committee Finalists
Following a slew of elections and interviews, the top three candidates for each of the five remaining spots on the Presidential Search Committee have been chosen. This committee, tasked with finding Oberlin’s next president, gives one representative spot each to students, College faculty, Conservatory faculty, administrative staff and alumni. Now that nominees for each group have been finalized, the committee’s six trustees will hold interviews with candidates beginning tomorrow to determine the one finalist for each spot. The two candidates from each group who aren’t selected to the committee will still participate in next semester’s interviews with presidential candidates.
Many nominees said they were pleased to be chosen as candidates, but stressed the importance of taking the job seriously and that it would be a challenge to find someone who can sufficiently represent various communities and concerns on campus. College faculty nominee and Religion Professor A.G. Miller said that he wants to make sure that he lives up to the expectations of those who voted for him.
“I take it very seriously, as I assume we all three [College faculty nominees] do,” Miller said. “Our colleagues put their faith in us, so hopefully we can adjudicate that trust as best we can.”
Miller was one of three College faculty finalists, along with Politics Professor Chris Howell and English Professor Jennifer Bryan. Both Bryan and Howell declined to comment in-depth on their being nominated.
Aside from respecting the overall concerns of College faculty, Miller said he is aware of the many different views and values that need to be considered when selecting the president.
“You have to represent a lot of different traditions, interests, financial needs, faculty, students, alumni — so I mean it’s an awesome job, but you have to take all of that into consideration,” Miller said.
For students, three finalists — double-degree senior Jeremy Poe and College juniors Naomi Roswell and Monique Newton — were chosen by Student Senate over the weekend after interviewing the eight self-nominated applicants.
Now only a few days away from finalizing the committee, questions still loom about how much of a time commitment the job will entail. Both Miller and Roswell mentioned this as a concern, given their already busy schedules.
“I think whoever gets the position will do a great job, but I think it’s going to be a lot of time,” Roswell said. “The interesting part, when you actually interview candidates, will be in the spring, and that’s something all three of us get to do. The main position requires literally reading hundreds of resumes and cover letters, and that seems less fun.”
Roswell questioned whether the time commitment is really worth the benefits of being the final representative, and has already received significant attention from faculty asking her to push their agendas.
“In the three days I’ve known I was nominated, I’ve had so many faculty tell me, ‘Naomi, make sure you bring up X, Y and Z,’” Roswell said. “If that’s going to keep happening in every interaction I have, that’s going to be rough.”
Still, Student Senate was satisfied with the three students they chose and felt they could each make their presence felt as the only student in committee meetings.
“Even though we know the trustees are committed, the student will still have to get their ideas heard, so that’s an important skill to have and something I think all three do very well,” Student Senate Liaison and College junior Thobeka Mnisi said.
One issue that remains unclear is what specific confidentiality rules exist in regards to the committee’s selection results and announcements. The list of nominees for each group was only emailed to the people within that group, meaning students did not receive faculty nominee results and vice versa.
In response to the Review’s request for the final nominees for Conservatory faculty and administrative staff representatives, Administrative Manager Brittany Skolnicki did not divulge who the nominees were, and said the committee will send a campus-wide email next week announcing the final committee. In the email to College faculty, no indication was made that faculty were forbidden to discuss the results with students.
For Poe, this instance of confidentiality was more of a non-issue, considering that the backbone of the search committee is still the trustees and that revealing nominees earlier could lead to unproductive denouncing of the final selection.
“I disagree with confidentiality in strategic planning and policy making, but when it comes to hiring individuals, frankly, it’s the board’s job to hire the president,” Poe said. “I don’t have a problem with the confidentiality here because you don’t want that second-guessing and vilifying.”
Following the selection of the five representatives next week, only committee members will know about what takes place in their meetings, but that doesn’t mean outsiders cannot get their concerns heard. Student Senator and College sophomore Kameron Dunbar said that despite the confidentiality, Student Senate will still help prepare the student representative to make their voice heard when they need to strongly advocate for something.
“There will be confidentiality standards, as there should be, but within those confines I still imagine Senate being able to offer assistance in advocacy,” Dunbar said. “Sometimes to get a point across, you need a little extra push. Senate can be that push.”
Student and faculty nominees will have interviews tomorrow to determine their final representatives. It remains unclear whether the administrative staff have selected their nominees yet. According to East Asian Studies Administrative Assistant Amy Redden, on Thursday she had yet to receive an email saying who their final three nominees were.
Although not on campus, Oberlin’s Alumni Leadership Council held their own election, and selected three final nominees — Lori Olan (OC ’87), Carol Levine (OC ’84) and Tim Hurson (OC ’67).
After final committee members are chosen next week, a tentative timeline sent to faculty indicates that they will hopefully finish reviewing presidential candidate profiles between December and February, and that interviews with candidates and a final selection will be completed by the end of April.