Finding Diver’s Replacement: Student Participation Vital In Search Process
With Colin Diver’s departure impending, Reed anticipates the appointment of a new leader to guide the community through its next era. Last Wednesday night marked the beginning of community participation in the search for Reed’s next President. The forum in Eliot Chapel provided an opportunity for students and faculty to contribute ideas and express concerns to be addressed in a position statement—a document that will ultimately define Reed’s community values and desired characteristics. The search for Reed’s next President is a closed process, meaning that potential candidates will not be announced to the community, making student and faculty contributions all the more important.
President Diver’s appointment was the last open search conducted on Reed College’s campus; the current search follows the new national trend of anonymity. Several years ago, it was easy enough for candidates to visit campuses and look for new positions without their current employer’s knowledge. Since then, much has changed. Information spreads quickly over Facebook and YouTube, making visits for potential presidents a threat to their current employment. John Sheehy ’82, a member of the Presidential Search Committee and Board of Trustees said, “it’s a killer for candidates… People just don’t want to apply.” The committee relies on the help of a consulting firm, Isaacson Miller, for direction during the process; the same firm was consulted during Reed’s last presidential search, which resulted in Diver’s appointment. Additionally, a confidential search makes communication and participation from the campus community immensely more complicated, for the committee cannot reveal the candidates until the final decision is made.
In light of this problem, students at the Wednesday night discussion made suggestions that could help potential presidents connect with Reedies while maintaining anonymity. Suggestions ranged from incognito lectures to candidates speaking through a voice changer behind a screen. Other suggestions included that candidates should write a “Why Reed?” essay, and that students should submit questions and receive responses; John Sheehy led the discussion. He prompted, “what doesn’t feel like Reed here?” sparking critique of the drafted position statement. The contributions of the students presented at the forum are vital to expanding and perfecting Reed’s representation, as well as presenting insight into Reed culture. With respect to the Honor Principle, Hannah Fishman ’14, an Honor Council member, noted that it was crucial that the committee make available “the best articulation that we as a community can provide for them.” Other students expressed desires for a President who could commit to environmental sustainability, focus on diversity, lead the field in handling sexual assault, and challenge the community to maintain higher expectations.
This kind of student participation is one of the leading concerns among the community as the search for a new president continues. Nora McConnell-Johnson, Reed’s Student Body President, occupies the only student position on the Search Committee: Student Observer. She explained that Reed is unusual compared to other schools, who often have many more students involved in such processes. Reed’s search committee is composed of six trustees, six faculty members, and two observers, all of whom take part in decision-making, as well as one administrative assistant. McConnell-Johnson noted that she understands the choice not to include more students, as it requires a considerable level of organization and effort.
Considering the situation, she elaborated: “In my role, I’m going to get as much student feedback as possible, so I’m actually representing people.”
McConnell-Johnson also noted the importance of attending meetings and discussions like last Wednesday night’s forum; other means of student participation in the decision-making process are forthcoming. In the meantime, Reed students can expect the Search Committee to represent the community as best they can as they seek President Diver’s successor.
“Colin has done great things for Reed,” McConnell-Johnson remarked. “He should be used as a measuring stick, but the Reed community needs to be open to change.”
For more information on the presidential search, visit: www.reed.edu/presidential_search