Is secrecy necessary for a successful university presidential search? Here’s what the numbers say

Brechner Center for Freedom of Information: Universities promote themselves as welcoming places for the free and open exchange of ideas, even controversial ones. Nevertheless, when it comes to the most important governance decision in the life of the university — who will serve as president — stakeholder input and debate are kept to a minimum. Although the public contributes significant sums to the operation of public institutions — both directly through state operating subsidies, and indirectly through research grants, federal financial aid and other sources — the public is increasingly excluded from the hiring process.

The most common argument for a confidential university executive search is that the school will not get the “best” candidate if it opens up the search, because good candidates would be wary about applying due to the possibility their interest in the job would be revealed to everyone. Would-be candidates are alleged to be afraid that if they apply for a job and do not get hired, that they will seem like “damaged goods” in future job pursuits, or that their interest in another job will result in retaliation at their home institutions.

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