Students raise concerns over presidential committee


Image source: UVM

Suresh Garimella was announced as the sole finalist in UVM’s presidential search. If Garimella is confirmed, he will replace President Tom Sullivan.

Lee Hughes, Assistant News Editor

There is a sole finalist for the presidential search process, drawing criticism from the campus community.

Suresh Garimella, executive vice president for research and partnerships at Purdue University, was announced Feb. 4 in an email from David Daigle, chair of the board of trustees.

The search process began at the beginning of the fall semester, but is only now entering the public phase.

Faculty and students have expressed concern over the lack of transparency in the process, which was discussed in part at a Feb. 5 United Academics faculty union meeting where the attendees planned further action on a number of topics.

“We feel the need to protect the privacy of the candidates came at the expense of faculty and student input,” said UA President Sarah Alexander, associate professor of English. “It demonstrates a failure to commit to student governments.”

The hybrid process includes a private initial phase of the search that results in a list of finalists who go on to a public phase where feedback is solicited from the campus community that informs the final decision for the next president, Daigle said.

It would have been possible to have gone into the public phase with multiple finalists, but the other candidates aside from Garimella did not want to be publicly looking for a new position, he said.

Being comfortable with being public about this process is not the reason that Garimella is a finalist, Daigle said.

“The old model of having an extended open, competitive, public phase is something that is not as popular as it used to be,” Daigle said. “There are multiple other institutions that have gone down this pathway.”

SGA submitted information about their priorities for a new president and were told that they would be able to meet with the finalists, SGA President Ethan Foley, a junior, said.

The plans to meet were later changed, he said.

“We need to work on a strategic plan for students and a diverse and inclusive committee with a clear, laid-out process going forward with all governance groups in the know,” Foley said.

In November 2018, Garimella was appointed by President Donald Trump to the National Science Board, where he will inform Congress and the White House on scientific issues, according to a November 2018 Inside Indiana Business article.

Garimella served from 2011 to 2016 as a senior fellow of the State Department’s Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas, according to his Purdue biography page.

This was a partnership from President Barack Obama’s administration that worked to promote clean energy and adaptation to climate change, according to the page.

If the board decides to confirm Garimella following his Feb. 13 two-day visit to the University, he will replace President Tom Sullivan this summer, Daigle said.

However, it is not guaranteed that Garimella will be confirmed by the board, he said.

Garimella would not have been announced if he was not a strong candidate, Daigle said.