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Ohio State presidential search process streamlined with new initiatives

Interim OSU President Joseph Alutto addresses the media Aug. 13. Credit: Shelby Lum / Photo editor

Interim OSU President Joseph Alutto addresses the media Aug. 13. Credit: Shelby Lum / Photo editor

The Ohio State Presidential Search Committee has started taking action on what is expected to be a yearlong process, but financial details on its latest initiatives are not yet available.

The committee introduced and discussed several initiatives being implemented to find the new president during its Aug. 16 meeting, including the hiring of a search firm to help with recruiting candidates, assembling a panel of university presidents to discuss requirements of a presidency and holding open forums around Columbus and OSU’s satellite campuses during the next few months to gather input from OSU community members.

Dallas-based R. William Funk and Associates, which has handled about 375 searches for university and college presidents and chancellors, will be the search firm. The university contract with the firm had not yet been finalized as of Sunday, Gayle Saunders, assistant vice president of media relations, said in an email.

The panel of current and former university presidents, which will be hosted by the OSU Board of Trustees Aug. 30 at 1 p.m. in the Ohio Union, will discuss “the challenges and opportunities of research universities and requisites for strong leadership,” according to an Aug. 16 university press release.

Harvard Graduate School of Education professor emeritus Richard Chait will organize the Symposium on the University Presidency, and Tufts University President Emeritus Lawrence Bacow, Tulane University President ScottCowen, Washington State University President Elson Floyd, University of North Carolina system President Thomas Ross and University of Virginia President Teresa Sullivan will be among the panelists.

The details of panelists’ travel and stay costs and whether or not they will be paid for by OSU are still being finalized, Saunders said.

Former OSU President E. Gordon Gee announced his retirement June 4, effective July 1, and former Provost and Executive Vice President Joseph Alutto assumed the role of interim president the same day.

The announcement of Gee’s retirement came days after controversial remarks Gee made at a Dec. 5 OSU Athletic Conference became public. Comments about Notre Dame and the SEC in particular, among other remarks, brought national attention.

The open forums, four of which will be held at the OSU Columbus campus in September, are an opportunity for OSU students, faculty, staff and alumni to “provide (their) thoughts and suggestions,” according to a Presidential Search Committee email sent to the OSU community Aug. 13.

Presidential Search Committee advisory subcommittee convener Deborah Jones Merritt, a professor at the Moritz College of Law, said the forums that have been held so far, one for the provost, Joseph Steinmetz, and deans Aug. 13 and another for University Staff Advisory Committee Aug. 14, have been “well-attended” and are helping the committee better define what it wants in the next OSU president.

“I thought they … very much met our expectations,” Merritt said at the Aug. 16 meeting, adding that attendees have been “extremely thoughtful” with “wide-ranging” suggestions.

Some of the desired characteristics listed on a presidential profile outline discussed at the meeting include the ability to lead a complex organization, communication skills, ability to further diversity and to build a “strong, collaborative” leadership team, commitment to “inclusive, transparent decision-making,” integrity trustworthiness, wisdom, energy and enthusiasm. Committee members were asked to mark up the documents and return them to Merritt with suggestions for changes and additions.

Some OSU first-years said they’d like for someone with similar characteristics to former OSU Gee’s be chosen as the next president.

“(I’d like to see) somebody who I guess does well with the students, is interactive like Gordon Gee was, because he did a lot for this community,” said Logan Smith, a first-year in business.

Other freshmen agreed.

“I think they should be looking for someone who the students can relate to and that we would be excited for having,” said Nicole Hablitzel, a first-year in exploration.

Hablitzel said she isn’t sure if she’ll go to any of the open forums.

Kathleen Martini contributed to this story. 

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