You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Mon, May 20, 2013 : 5:58 a.m.

University of Michigan faculty want input on presidential search

By Kellie Woodhouse

University of Michigan faculty are requesting a seat at the table as regents decide who the next leader of the Ann Arbor school will be.


File photo of U-M's campus.

Daniel Brenner |

In a two-page statement given to regents this month and crafted by a faculty senate committee on university values, faculty requested the search for U-M's next president include broad input from professors.

"This search comes at a critical time for U-M, the State of Michigan, U.S. research universities and higher education," the statement says. "Despite these successes, Michigan’s institutional values and academic leadership will continue to face serious challenges arising from both a complex volatile environment and the costs associated with higher education."

"...As you begin the search for the next president, we hope that you will... draw upon our expertise."

U-M President Mary Sue Coleman announced in April she will retire when her contract expires in July 2014 and the school's eight-member governing body is in charge of hiring her replacement.

Board members have said a formal search for Coleman's replacement will begin this summer. Coleman was hired in 2002 and in the letter faculty called the search process that yielded her "excellent."

Faculty asked for clarity in the search process, saying they understood the need for secrecy, but asked that they be involved on all rungs of the search.

They asked that an advisory search committee be put in place, as in the 2002 search, and requested faculty representation on such a group. "Good use of our collective experience will strengthen the university," the statement says.

Board of Regents chair Larry Deitch said faculty will be consulted during the search, but the search framework still is being decided. He declined to comment further.

"There will be faculty involvement, absolutely," said regent Andrew Richner. "They can count on it."

Faculty also asked regents to take advice from the faculty senate on who should sit on an advisory committee and said it should be chaired by "a distinguished faculty member."

Aside from an advisory committee, faculty asked regents to hold open forums to get to the core of what university stakeholders want in their next president.

"Mechanisms must be put in place to ensure that the varying viewpoints of U-M's community are given due consideration," the statement says, adding later: "It is essential that the process include a broad, open conversation with the university community."

Thirteen members of the 14-member committee voted in support of the statement, with one member abstaining.

Kim Kearfott, chair of the committee, said she hasn't received a response from regents since submitting the statement on April 29.

Kellie Woodhouse covers higher education for Reach her at or 734-623-4602 and follow her on twitter.



Mon, May 20, 2013 : 10:29 p.m.

Wonderful!!! I am so pleased that UM is willing to engage with the AAPS! Please, please, please take them up on it!


Mon, May 20, 2013 : 10:38 p.m.

Oops, misread! Please ignore, or delete.


Mon, May 20, 2013 : 8:27 p.m.

"Shared Governance" between the faculty and the administration has been the tradition at American Universities almost since their inception. Therefore, what is strange is that the faculty even have to ask for a say in the selection. The Administration has become more corporate, by which is meant that it functions in a top down management style controlled by the administration. More and more, the administration pays only lip service to shared governance by hand picking the faculty members who will be on their advisory committees. I predict that will happen in this case as well. They will pick a few faculty members to be on the committee but heaven forbid that the faculty pick their own representatives.

Kellie Woodhouse

Mon, May 20, 2013 : 7:19 p.m.

Interestingly, I think faculty government is also considering putting together a statement on what attributes/qualities/background/experience it would seek in U-M's next leader. I know in the existing values statement, faculty asked for venues in which university stakeholders could flesh out those ideas. Such venues occurred in the last search.


Mon, May 20, 2013 : 6:06 p.m.

Town hall meeting? Maybe. Seat at the table - sure - if I can go carp to Congress whenever I want.


Mon, May 20, 2013 : 4:43 p.m.

Requesting a seat with regents is just taking up space, good luck.


Mon, May 20, 2013 : 4:26 p.m.

I think the students need to get in on this as well. Maybe there should be a special election in Michigan everytime there is an opening?

Kellie Woodhouse

Mon, May 20, 2013 : 7:15 p.m.

I do know the last advisory search committee, which produced Coleman, had the president of the student government on it.


Mon, May 20, 2013 : 6 p.m.

Yes, that would be such a burden every 12 years.


Mon, May 20, 2013 : 4:01 p.m.

Gee, I want to help pick my next boss as well. My input is very important and critical to boot, just ask me.

Nicholas Urfe

Mon, May 20, 2013 : 1:01 p.m.

I really don't even know what the University's priorities are anymore. With the moves to seize private property for university expansion, and the nearly year long cover-up of the child porn investigation at the hospital - with nobody ultimately ever being fired, to the priorities of the athletic department. What, in actual practice, does the President stand for?


Mon, May 20, 2013 : 8:21 p.m.

@blue85- technically, no one was fired for the child porn scandal. I have made the FOIA requests and that is what they told me. Some people were "allowed to resign" but it "had nothing to do with the child pornography case". The most important policy makers are still there and hiring new pawns in the General Counsel's Office will not change anything as long as they are still following the same orders to keep things secret.


Mon, May 20, 2013 : 7:57 p.m.

"I really don't even know what the University's priorities are anymore. With the moves to seize private property for university expansion, and the nearly year long cover-up of the child porn investigation at the hospital - with nobody ultimately ever being fired, to the priorities of the athletic department. What, in actual practice, does the President stand for?" Your argument is pretty poorly constructed or intentionally disingenuous: the fact that the university failed doesn't mean that it now, somehow, has magically different priorities. The priorities are unchanged, but the university failed in the execution (porn case) and is acting within in the law as to eminent domain. As to the porn case, the nobody fired theory you present is utterly at odds with the reality of the situation. As to the athletic department, it is fully funded and self-funded, so I have no clue what your concern is. As a factual matter, the athletic department repatriates funds to the academic side. Are you suggesting that their priority should be to NOT contribute to the academic side or to NOT provide scholarships? The President stands for many things and makes thousands of decisions over a greater than 10 year tenure. To focus on a few issues/failures, no matter how severe is neither a reasonable nor appropriate approach to evaluating Coleman's tenure. Taking such an approach -- looking only at the lower/left tail of the distribution -- is the last refuge of the innumerate. Try looking at the other 97.5% of the distribution and at her many accomplishments.


Mon, May 20, 2013 : 3:59 p.m.

Sorry - too obscure. Nicholas Urfe is a character from a great book. Blanking on the name. School teacher who moved to a small island in Greece.

Nicholas Urfe

Mon, May 20, 2013 : 2:24 p.m.

@ManA2: "What do things look like from that Greek island you hang out on?" Nothing is true, everything is permitted


Mon, May 20, 2013 : 2 p.m.

It was a far simply world when the University simply could count on the State for much of it's funding and focus solely on education. That is still the only goal that matters, but creating the means to get there has changed. The athletic department not only focused on the development of the student athletes, but as a big part of establishing awareness of the University and maintaining a connection to alumni who ultimately gift the resources needed to keep things going. What do things look like from that Greek island you hang out on?


Mon, May 20, 2013 : 12:51 p.m.

There clearly needs to be faculty input into the selection. That said, it is more important for the Provost than the President. The President's job is to run the University. The Provost's job is to lead academics. I am confident the Regents will remember that during the selection process. Getting the best academic is not the same as getting the best President. For better or worse, the President's job is now far more about funding, fund raising, budgeting, and ensuring the University has the resources it needs to be successful far into the future.


Mon, May 20, 2013 : 7:50 p.m.

"the corporate tone imposed by the present occupant" How are you measuring the above? It seems that Coleman has presided over a strengthening of the institution along many measures: 1) financially; 2) research volume; 3) facilities; 4) hiring faculty to chip away at the student/teacher ratio; 5) making defensive moves financially to keep faculty. Most of these changes should be approved of by the faculty. Like it or not, the increasing societal drive to measure inputs and outputs means that financial and operational controls are increasing in importance and feed, however unfortunately, directly into rankings. Rankings are used by "customers" (i.e., students) to buy the "product". Purchase of the product, a superior product at a somewhat controlled price (yes, I've seen the increases, which are lower than for some entities, but also against a hard to measure product: quality of output), requires that faculty "productivity" be maintained/increased under tremendous pricing pressure. Decrying a "corporate tone" is the fondest (aka: most foolish) wish that you might express. Asking for a less corporate tone expresses a return to some primordial garden of Eden. We no longer live there. With more and more people and fewer resources the game has changed radically. Wishful thinking won't get it done. Harvesting resources will and that is the name of the game. As the original OP notes, the President is akin to the producer and the provost is akin to the director. They are complementary and if the President is not watching the debits and credits, the whole enterprise will decline in value. Some schools have vanished for precisely that reason.


Mon, May 20, 2013 : 4:17 p.m.

I see your point, but the President sets the overall agenda of the institution and there are some, including me, who think that the corporate tone imposed by the present occupant of the position has not served the academic mission of the humanities and liberal arts very well. Hence, academics would like some say in the way the whole place works.

Craig Lounsbury

Mon, May 20, 2013 : 12:46 p.m.

For some reason I am reminded of a quote from my dear old dad (a former University professor and department head) who used to say "the most efficient committee is a committee of one." RIP pop.


Mon, May 20, 2013 : 12:30 p.m.

Why should the faculty be worried? Our regents have the Bernstein advantage.


Mon, May 20, 2013 : 11:30 a.m.

Everybody wants a say. How about a deep pocketed NFL owner? I heard they make great university presidents.


Mon, May 20, 2013 : 10:22 a.m.

I'm glad the faculty senate has eagerly and actively sought out the administration to have input into the selection of the next U of M president. I hope that the Board of Regents sees the value and the opportunity that the faculty @ the University of Michigan can provide in the leadership and expertise we need as we move forward in the selection of our next University president. What better group to be an integral part to the selection process. I'd like to see the same input be part of the selection process for the next A2 public school superintendent, and the next Washtenaw Community College president - when Rose Bellanca is replaced. In fact, all local school districts should utilize their most valuable resource - it's educators - in leadership selection. It's time we put education first, and to follow the learned advice of educators.