Alarmed by CSU chancellor search, lawmakers introduce transparency bill

Responding to news of the veiled chancellor search being conducted by Colorado State University, House Majority Leader Paul Weissmann and Senate Majority Leader Brandon Shaffer introduced legislation yesterday demanding greater transparency in the way the state’s public universities select leaders.

“For Colorado to pick the right leaders for our colleges, we need the right process. We need a process that is open, transparent, accountable and inclusive,” Sen. Shaffer said in a press release announcing introduction of the bill, HB 1369.

Under the proposed law, public universities would be required to assemble search committees that reflect the full range of the university community. Search committees would openly agree on the job qualifications they are seeking, publicly advertise positions and take at least six months to thoroughly vet the candidates. The names of a search committee’s top choices would be made public and the candidates would be required to make public presentations.

In stories posted last week, The Colorado Independent reported that the CSU chancellor search committee refuses to release applicant names and is likely to present just one, its top choice, for public review.

The speed and secrecy of the search and the restricted membership of the search committee — made up mostly of CSU current or former board members and corporate CEOs — has irked observers and CSU students.

The CSU search began in December in the wake of the resignation of CSU Fort Collins president and university chancellor Larry Penley, who was under fire for mismanagement and corruption. CSU spokesperson Michele McKinney said the CSU board plans to wrap the search and make a hire by July 1st.

Referring directly to the CSU search in the release, Rep. Weissmann said he wanted “to make sure the [CSU chancellor selection] is made in the light of day, not behind closed doors. It should be made with the input of students, alumni, faculty, and other stakeholders. The era of closed-door governing is over. ”

Excerpts from the bill:

The selection process for leaders of the state institutions of higher education must be consistent among the state institutions, incorporating the best search practices… the selection process must be thorough, inclusive and as transparent as possible, while still preserving to the extent necessary candidates’ privacy and confidentiality.

[…]

Search committees shall be broadly representative of the governing board and the system or instituional faculty and administration. The search committee may also include alumni… members of the local or state community… members of the student body… and the system or institutional staff.

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