SGA edged out of presidential search


Alek Fleury

A student asks a question during Suresh Garimell’a only visit to campus Feb. 14 before he was approved to be the next University president. Garimella was the sole finalist from the presidential search presented to the public, but there were two interviewed by the faculty panel.

Lee Hughes, Assistant News Editor

A faculty panel met with two finalists during the presidential search, but no student panel equivalent was created.

SGA has planned a resolution criticizing the lack of student inclusion in the process.

SGA President Ethan Foley, a junior, learned while attending a Feb. 25 Faculty Senate meeting that a panel of faculty members got to speak with two finalist candidates.

“I think it’s indicative of their valuing of student opinion, or lack thereof,” Foley said. “I think it’s completely inappropriate.”

Sam Litra
SGA President Ethan Foley, a junior, talks about plans for his presidency March 27, 2018. Foley was disappointed with the lack of student involvement in the presidential search process, which included only one undergraduate consultant on the search committee.

While this search process was described as the largest and most inclusive, this was not the case, Foley said, because one student represented all 10,000 undergraduates on the committee while there were multiple faculty members represented.

“It would have been very productive to include students beyond that point and within that confidential process,” Foley said. “Not only the search itself, but for the sake of the future of our University.”

Witt-Keifer, the firm the University used to run the search process, told the board at the beginning of the process that it might be a hybrid, public-private process, Foley said, which the board failed to communicate, leaving students out.

SGA will be voting on a resolution in the near future to express its disapproval of how students were underrepresented in the presidential search process, he said.

Plant biology professor David Barrington, a member of the presidential search committee, addressed some of the grievances with the search process at the Feb. 25 Faculty Senate meeting.

“The faculty panel chooses from among its members the four representatives of the faculty that would be on the actual search committee,” Barrington said.

The faculty panel met with two candidates, one of which was Suresh Garimella.

These meetings occured between the December 2018 interviews conducted by the search committee and the Feb. 4 announcement of Garimella as the sole finalist, he said.

David Daigle, chair of the board of trustees, stated in a March 3 email to the Cynic that students played an “active and important role” in the search process in part because they were able to submit input before the search and after the Feb. 14 forum.

SGA and the Graduate Student Senate were able to have independant meetings with Garimella Feb. 14 and then provide feedback to the chair of the board of trustees, Daigle stated.

“We are pleased with the scope of community input we were able to achieve while still meeting the confidentiality needs of our candidates,” Daigle stated in a March 1 email. “We are also grateful for the very many people who engaged with us, both in private and public settings.”

One undergraduate student and one graduate student sat on the search committee, and two students — one undergraduate and one graduate — sit on the board of trustees.

There were four faculty members on the search committee and 17 on the faculty panel, which chooses which faculty sit on the search committee, Barrington said.

The implementation of a hybrid public-private search that produced one finalist for the public phase has prompted outcry on campus, including a discussion at a Feb. 5 UA meeting and posters around campus critiquing the process from the Coalition for Student and Faculty Rights.

The search process began  in fall 2018, ending its private phase with Suresh Garimella announced Feb. 4 as the finalist.

He was confirmed Feb. 22 by the board of trustees as the next president following a public open forum Feb. 14.


This story updated 10:27 a.m. March 5 to reflect that there were 17 members on the faculty panel and to include information about Witt Kieffer.