Chairwoman Shapira, Chancellor Greenstein, governors, university presidents and guests,
I realize that, at the last BOG meeting, I stated that those would be my final comments to all of you — and I thought that they would be. However, when I saw the agenda for today’s special meeting, I thought it imperative to provide brief remarks about the agenda item regarding the appointment of a permanent president at Shippensburg University. These comments are in no way directed at the individual selected, but rather at the search process leading to this selection. It is important to consider the radical changes that have occurred in presidential leadership at our universities.
Over the last couple of years, eight university presidents have retired, resigned to take new positions, were reassigned to the Office of the Chancellor, or appointed the interim presidents at other universities. The list: President Welsh (East Stroudsburg), President Jones (California), President Carter, (Shippensburg), President Huang (Edinboro) President Pignatello (Lock Haven), President Hanna (BU to Lock Haven and Mansfield), President Pehrsson (Clarion to Edinboro and California) and President Patterson (Mansfield to Ship).
These changes involved three women presidents (Carter, Jones and Welsh) who left the System, and two of them were women from historically marginalized groups. At present, only one woman president remains. Nine of 10 university presidents are men, and only two of them are from historically marginalized groups (President Walton and Interim President Long), and only two others have ethnically diverse backgrounds (President Wubah and President Hanna). The remaining are white men.
The appointment of a president of a university is an important and significant decision, as the president sets the strategic plan for the university, leads fundraising efforts and is the face of the university — to name just a few things that the president is responsible for.
At a number of BOG meetings, the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion on our college campuses has been emphasized. This includes the strengthening of the curriculum to include DEI elements and diversifying faculty, staff and — I would like to think — leadership teams at our universities, including our presidents. In fact, these goals have been referred to as a guiding principle or “North Star” to which we all should be committed.
The Board of Governors Policy 1983-13-A lays out the process for recommending presidential appointments and the procedure for accomplishing such. I will not read that policy in its entirety but want to highlight one important element of the procedure that is outlined to implement that policy. Procedure C.1 states the following:
The chancellor is directed to create procedures and standards to comply with this policy. Such procedures and standards shall support the generation of diverse candidate pools.
It does not appear as if this procedure was followed. An announcement of the opening of the president of Shippensburg was never posted: In other words, no national search occurred. Absent a national search, it is not possible to generate a diverse candidate pool. Because of that, it is impossible to consider the appointment of a person from a historically marginalized group or someone from an ethnic background.
We all know why diversity is so important: It is critical to helping us explore new ideas and exposing us to different perspectives and experiences. Diversity promotes critical thinking and broadens and enhances our understanding of the world. The fact that the leaders of our universities have become less diverse is troubling, and I think it is important to question why this has occurred. It is further important to ponder if these decisions align with the guiding principles that have been outlined by the BOG.
Further, if the Board truly believes that diversity is important for our System as a whole, there should be caution about disregarding its own policies. When the Board disregards its own policies, it undermines its authority and forces others to question the legitimacy of its governance.
Thank you for your time.