Letter to the editor: Presidential search should be public

I am not happy with the changes in the presidential hiring process at NIU.

Paul Palian, director of media and public relations says, “We’re using a closed door, hybrid approach with stakeholders, including faculty, staff, alumni and foundation board members, who have a confidential agreement not to speak [on the matter].” I would like to ask Mr. Pailian who the “we” is in his statement. As a public institution, aren’t all of us stakeholders in this process? Who are these faculty members, staff, alumni, student and foundation board members? What is the big secret? They are certainly not elected officials of the university. Who chose them and why were they chosen over others? Are there minorities on the committee?

Student Association Speaker (wait a minute. What position is that?) James Zanayed said, “The sole purpose of the search is to find the best candidate,” and that “its confidentiality attracts more candidates.” It’s a neat hat trick to get the Student Association Speaker to make statements on behalf of the Student Association. What does the president of the Student Association have to say? The point is that the NIU campus at large will never have an opportunity to see or interact with any of these candidates. Everything is done behind closed doors and in the strictest confidentiality and secrecy. Why?

Speaker Zanayed goes on to say (if the paper is going to put his name out there, he can be quoted and potentially discredited by other “stakeholders” of the university) it’s to protect the candidates’ identities. To protect the candidates’ identities? So let me get this straight, the presidential candidates’ identities have to be kept confidential for their “own” protection until one of them is chosen for the job. The rest of us just have to hope and wait, in the dark, until that happens. What was wrong with the old process where transparency through an open forum allowed everyone to at least get a look at the person and ask some questions? It is a very disturbing trend where consulting firms and confidentiality agreements have taken the place of transparency at public institutions supported by tax payer’s dollars.

Gregory T. Ross

Coordinator of Foreign Language Residence Program

Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures