By Emily Bruzzo, News Editor
Published in print Jan. 28, 2015
Members of UNC-Greensboro’s campus community aren’t just looking for a new chancellor; it seems they’re looking for a superhero.
Last week was busy for UNCG, with listening forums nearly every day.
The chancellor search committee certainly has a long and arduous road ahead as it tries to choose candidates who can live up to the high standards the community has set for its future leader.
However, the committee took its first major step in the search process when members agreed to make the search an “extended confidential” one.
An “extended confidential” search— a term coined by Kelly Burke, one of the committee’s faculty representatives — means that the list of candidates will remain confidential throughout the process.
However, once the committee has narrowed down the pool to a list off five or six semi-finalists, those candidates will be introduced to a select number of small groups.
The groups, which will represent UNCG’s various constituencies, will be bound by the same strict confidentiality guidelines that the committee must follow.
Though faculty senators pushed last semester for a more open search type, in which the entire campus community could meet the finalists, many have said they feel this is a fair compromise.
The search process is nothing without candidates for whom to search, however, and at last weeks listening forums community members offered their input on the type of people they wish to attract to UNCG.
The forums garnered solid turnouts, with packed rooms for both faculty meetings, and strings of students, staff and alumni attending other gatherings.
Each forum followed a similar format.
Bill Funk, the consultant who will aid the search committee throughout the process, presented each audience with the same three questions: what opportunities/challenges will the new chancellor face, what type of person should the new leader be in order to deal with those opportunities/challenges and what would the group members tell candidates to attract them to UNCG and Greensboro.
The responses to these questions were varied at all five forums, but over the course of the week, several themes began to emerge.
One consistent desire voiced by faculty members was for a leader who had the same interpersonal skills as Chancellor Patricia Sullivan, Chancellor Linda Brady’s predecessor.
Many campus community members said they wanted someone who can “walk among us,” with one professor saying, “We are not looking for someone who can operate only Mossman.”
Many community members also listed similar attributes that they hope the new chancellor will have.
Audience members said they want someone who is trustworthy and empowering, courageous and humble, charismatic and sincere, thoughtful and conscientious and someone who understands the importance of shared governance and respects the need for transparency.
The groups said they want a person with outstanding speaking skills—an extrovert with a “strong voice,” a “collaborative leadership” style and the confidence to “lead this campus as a campus that is one.”
Board of trustees members argued that the new leader needs to be someone with plenty of fundraising experience, and who can guide this university through its strategic planning process and upcoming capital campaigns.
But faculty members are less concerned with the next chancellor’s financial astuteness and more with their reliability.
“We need a leader who is concerned about the faculty and staff and has their backs,” one professor said.
Another professor demanded that the new chancellor be someone who gives clear reasons for the decisions they make.
It was with comments such as these, that faculty members began subtly to allude to their frustration with Brady and her administration over the last seven years.
This chancellor search comes at a time of particularly low morale for faculty, with recent survey results backing up the claims that they are discontented.
Many faculty members did not shy away from this fact during these candid forums.
Funk seemed to pick up on faculty tension, saying, the community seems to be looking for a “healer,” and that faculty should remember “every president or chancellor search is the opportunity for a new beginning, and this is an opportunity to look forward, not backward.”
However, that didn’t sit well with many faculty members.
One professor asserted, “If we’re going to have any healing we have to look backwards and deal with it.”
She continued, saying, “We need somebody who knows how to work, not just going forward, but who needs to be able to pay attention to what’s happened in the past.”
“I’m concerned,” she said, “that if we get somebody who doesn’t pay attention to the past, then we’ll go off in some new crazy direction…”
“I think we need someone,” she argued, “who is willing to come here and say: ‘okay, let’s get on with it.’”
She continued, saying, “I was on the last chancellor search committee and I know that a lot of the candidates will have plans for fixing us, because last time we weren’t really broken, and we had people with plans for fixing us…”
“We’ve been fixed the least amount that possibly could have happened if we had chosen any of the other candidates,” she asserted.
“I’m assuming,” she continued, “that most of these candidates will want to fix us even more than we’ve already been fixed.”
“I want someone who likes us where we are and doesn’t want to fix us. I want someone to stand up for us the way we are,” she finished, her words greeted by an applause from her colleagues.
UNCG wants a lot from its next chancellor, but it seems the consensus is, as one community member put it, “People are looking for a chancellor who listens.”