Three days remain in the 30-day public review period for Walter “Ted” Carter before the University of Nebraska system Board of Regents take further action on whether the priority candidate for NU system president will assume the position or not.
On Thursday, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and University of Nebraska Omaha chapters of the American Association of University Professors released a joint statement denouncing the process of naming only one candidate for the position. The statement said the process undermined the public’s ability to compare and decide the best candidate for the job.
“All finalists in such a search will have qualifications that recommend them, and weaknesses that render them less fit for the position,” the statement said. “Without the ability to compare one candidate to another, meaningful feedback on whether the priority candidate is the best candidate for the position is impossible.”
Besides the positions of president and chancellor that only name one finalist, all other positions name four finalists, a change that the Board of Regents pushed for in 2016 to the Nebraska Legislature.
The chapters raise concerns after only two faculty members were appointed to the 23-member Presidential Search Advisory Committee earlier this summer. According to the statement, if Carter does become president, it will be done without a general consensus of NU system faculty.
By not having a voice, the chapters argue they would be forced to only endorse the search committee’s choice without stating their opinions.
“If we do not endorse it, it is unclear whether such as action would have any impact on the process, or what method or form such a rejection would have to take to make such an impact,” the chapters wrote in the statement.
The statement argues that universities are structured more as “workplace democracies,” having a central administration office, Faculty and Student Senate and a campus judiciary that focus more like the three brancehs of government rather than the design on a typical working environment.
Most other businesses are defined in clear hierarchies, like the military, the chapter said, and as a result, the adjustment to the NU system will be more difficult for an outsider.
“Those without significant experience in such an environment, such as the priority candidate, are bound to have difficulties adjusting,” according to the statement. “Should [Carter] become our next president, he will have to pay careful attention to the need to learn and adjust to this unique system of governance.”
Despite the concerns raised by the two chapters, both ask the Board of Regents and Carter to look into the governing procedures and strengthen the decision-making and search processes if Carter is confirmed as president.
Former NU system president Hank Bounds and Chancellor Ronnie Green were involved in searches before the 2016 finalist change and allowed Nebraskans the chance to decide which candidate was best for the position among the four provided candidates, according to the Lincoln Journal Star.
The Lincoln Journal Star reported that the Board of Regents will wait until the next meeting on Dec. 5 to formally hire Carter, allowing for members to take time to reflect on the candidate themselves.
“We thank all those whose work contributed to the recent search,” the statement said, “and hope that we can work equally diligently to strengthen our governance processes on campus this next year and in the years to follow.”
Members of the UNL community are encouraged by the Board of Regents to submit feedback about the priority candidate before the 30-day period ends on Sunday. Questions, comments and concerns can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article was modified at 7:37 p.m. on Nov. 21 to include feedback submission information.