Editorial: Universities should end farce of selecting sole finalists for president

The ongoing controversy related to the University of Colorado’s designated finalist for president demonstrates one important fact: It’s time to end the farce of Colorado universities designating sole “finalists” for crucial university positions.

Colorado State University in March named Joyce McConnell as the sole finalist to become the Fort Collins-based university’s 15th president.

The University of Northern Colorado in Greeley in April 2018 named Andrew Feinstein as the sole finalist to become UNC’s next president.

And the University of Colorado in April named Mark Kennedy as the sole finalist to become president of the university system. Kennedy has become a focus of controversy due to his voting record when he served as a U.S. congressman.

Contrast those designations of a sole finalist with the actions of Aims Community College in Greeley, which named three finalists for its president position in 2015. Ivan Gorne, Geri Anderson and Leah Bornstein were named as finalists, and the college conducted open forums with each of the candidates, allowing the public to ask questions. After receiving that feedback, the Aims Community College Board of Trustees voted to select Bornstein, who remains president to this day.

And Front Range Community College, with campuses in Westminster, Fort Collins and Longmont, named seven semi-finalists in 2009 before eventually selecting Andrew Dorsey. Semi-finalists visited the campuses and discussed their backgrounds and experiences, leadership styles and philosophies.

Aims and Front Range got it right. Why can’t Colorado’s universities do the same? Colorado law requires that a finalist or finalists for executive-level positions at state agencies or institutions be announced at least two weeks before hiring.

Universities argue that it’s a matter of privacy for candidates, who may not want their current employer to know of their interest in another position. We say, “hogwash!” To shift from one job to another is a common feature of university administrators, and if a person is truly interested in a position, he or she should be willing to go before the public.

To designate only one “finalist” flouts the spirit — if not the letter — of the law. It deprives the public of the opportunity to provide meaningful feedback on candidates. It prevents them from asking insightful questions of multiple individuals. And it denies search committees the benefits of expanding a wider range of opinions on a candidate’s strengths and weaknesses.

Designation of a single finalist represents a slap in the face to the public, essentially telling them that their opinions don’t matter. And it heightens the chance that search committees will make a mistake in their hiring decision.

Universities are supposed to promote openness and a free exchange of ideas. To close off the search process for the most-important position at a university abrogates that responsibility.

The ongoing controversy related to the University of Colorado’s designated finalist for president demonstrates one important fact: It’s time to end the farce of Colorado universities designating sole “finalists” for crucial university positions.

Colorado State University in March named Joyce McConnell as the sole finalist to become the Fort Collins-based university’s 15th president.

The University of Northern Colorado in Greeley in April 2018 named Andrew Feinstein as the sole finalist to become UNC’s next president.

And the University of Colorado in April named Mark Kennedy as the sole finalist to become president of the university system. Kennedy has become a focus of controversy due to his voting record when he served as a U.S. congressman.

Contrast those designations of a sole finalist with the actions of Aims Community College in Greeley, which named three finalists for its president position in 2015. Ivan Gorne, Geri Anderson and Leah Bornstein were named as finalists, and the college conducted open forums with each of the candidates, allowing the public to ask questions. After receiving that feedback, the Aims Community College Board of Trustees voted to select Bornstein, who remains president to this day.

And Front Range Community College, with campuses in Westminster, Fort Collins and Longmont, named seven semi-finalists in 2009 before eventually selecting Andrew Dorsey. Semi-finalists visited the campuses and discussed their backgrounds and experiences, leadership styles and philosophies.

Aims and Front Range got it right. Why can’t Colorado’s universities do the same?…