May 062009
 
Authors: Matt Minich

A state bill that would have injected more transparency into university system governing board searches for leaders was killed in the state legislature this week, continuing a process that faculty and state officials say “only leads to suspicion.”

The current search process doesn’t require that names of candidates be released, which the dead measure would have changed.

Michele McKinney, the chief spokesperson for the CSU System Board of Governors, said that while the bill would increase transparency in the hiring process, it could deter applicants who do not want their names known before being accepted for the position.

“It could very well hinder the quality of candidates that would apply for positions at this level,” McKinney said.

But John Straayer, a political science professor at CSU and supporter of the bill, said that while the new transparency laws may have deterred some applicants, this loss was not significant enough to make up for the benefits of transparency.

“The exclusion of students, faculty and staff and the secretive nature of (the selection process) only leads to suspicion,” Straayer said.

State Representative John Kefalas, D-Fort Collins, said he suspected that lobbying by higher education had contributed to the death of the bill.

“I’m disappointed that (the bill) failed,” Kefalas said, adding he felt more transparency was needed in the chancellor selection process.

State Representative Randy Fischer, D-Fort Collins, another supporter of the measure, agreed with Kefalas, saying, “I don’t frankly understand this need to be so secretive about the search process.”

Fischer supported the bill and passed a floor amendment that required students and faculty to be on the chancellor search committee.

McKinney said the BOG adequately represented students and faculty in the selection of Blake, as both Taylor Smoot, president of the Associated Students of CSU, and David Fresquez, president of the Associated Students’ Government, were able to be present during board discussions.

The decision to kill the bill was made by Senate Majority Leader Brandon Shaffer, who had originally introduced the bill into the House.

Shaffer and House Majority Leader Paul Weissmann introduced the bill April 30.

The death of the bill coincided with the selection of Denver Chamber of Commerce CEO Joe Blake to lead the CSU System as chancellor on Tuesday.

Highly qualified candidates who currently hold positions elsewhere would be hesitant to make their names public for a job they might not get, McKinney said.

Shaffer said the potential to scare off qualified applicants was the main reason he asked members of the Education Committee to kill the bill.

“I just want to make sure I’m not doing anything that would jeopardize out ability to get the best people,” Shaffer said. He said that it was possible that lobbying by higher education may have planted seeds of doubt in the legislature, but he couldn’t say for sure.

Shaffer said that while there had not been enough time to perfect this bill, he is still open to proposing similar bills in the future.

“At the end of the day, I think it was the right conversation to have,” he said.

Staff writer Matt Minich can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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