The search for Charlie Nelms' successor has officially begun. Representatives from 19-member committee met for the first time yesterday on the North Carolina Central University campus to discuss what could be a months-long process of finding a replacement for the university's outgoing chancellor.
Among the topics of discussion: How long the search process could potentially take, the qualities of a suitable candidate and the finalization of the draft "leadership statement" that will serve as the de facto job description. But among these other, preliminary decisions, committee members will also have decide how transparent the search process will be.
Members of the committee—a cross-section of alumni, community leaders, students and faculty—have all signed confidentiality agreements that bar each from speaking publicly about the search process. But on-hand representatives from the University of North Carolina said that there is nothing in state law that prevents the committee as a whole from releasing names of the candidates being considered. They still advise against it, however.
"In my experience, doing so limits the pool of potential candidates," said Ann Lemmon, UNC Vice President for Human Resources. Of course, it might also narrow the field to those candidates who are serious about committing to the university.
According to UNC system president Tom Ross, recruitment won't be a problem. "This particular institution, I'll tell you, will attract some very, very strong candidates because it's a plumb job," he told the assembled committee. Once the field is narrowed down to 3 candidates by the committee, Ross will decide to whom to extend the offer. Afterward, the UNC Board of Governors will decide to approve or not approve that decision.
But Ross too cautioned the committee against making the process public. "To get the very best people, you're going to be going after people who already have jobs," he said. "And if that's made public, it can hurt a candidate's career."
Still, there is a precedent for not making the process opaque. In 2004, Kenneth Peacock, Chancellor of Appalachian State University, was selected via an open search process, says Lemmon. Universities in the UNC system have replaced chancellors several times since then, she says. But none have opted to make the names of candidates public.
Which route the NCCU search committee will take will be decided in the coming weeks. University officials estimate that the entire search process should take no more than 4 to 6 months.