New HSU president named by March? Questions raised about search transparency

While the search for a new Humboldt State University president has reached the halfway mark, according to officials, questions are being raised about the level of secrecy surrounding potential candidates.

"The process in finding a replacement takes about four to six months, so the next milestone would be for the committees to start interviewing the candidates," said Mike Uhlenkamp, public affairs director for the California State University Chancellor's Office.

President Rollin Richmond announced his retirement in September, with the intention to retire at the end of this semester.

With the new president scheduled to start July 1, HSU spokesman Paul Mann said he is hopeful a replacement will be named by the end of March.

"President Richmond said he is going to assist and guide his successor through the transition because there are going to be people to meet, and they will have to be briefed on the budget," Mann said.

Uhlenkamp agreed.

"The search process can be a dynamic one, so it takes a lot to find the right person," he said. "It is still fairly early, and we still need to narrow it down, but sometime in March seems appropriate."

The names of the candidates are being kept confidential, according to Mann, and there have been no prospective candidate visits on campus.

Michael Camann, HSU chapter vice president of the California Faculty Association, said the lack of transparency during the whole process has been disturbing.

"The justification for the secrecy the CSU is giving is that we can't get the best candidate because we have to be concerned about the candidate's home institution finding out that they are looking for a job," Camann said. "That's not the kind of president we want."

The search is being conducted by a six-member CSU trustee committee and an 11-member advisory committee, including HSU faculty, staff, student and community representatives.

"Both committees do everything together, including reviewing the candidates, providing feedback, participating in meetings and interviewing the candidates," Uhlenkamp said. "The final decision, however, will be made by the CSU Trustee Committee. The Advisory Committee has no say in the final decision."

Camann said the process for finding a replacement changed in recent years under the direction of then-CSU Chancellor Charles Reed in that candidates no longer visit the campus to meet with the community, creating a more corporate-like and opaque hiring process.

"When Richmond was hired, the three candidates came to campus and held a forum," he said. "None of that is going to happen this time, and we are going to get a president that we haven't talked to. I have always felt that the campus is better served when the candidates visit the campus."

Melissa Simon can be reached at 441-0508 or