Editorial

All’s quiet

October 10, 2012 

Here we go again. The search committee to pick the next chancellor for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has hired Bill Funk and his Dallas-based headhunter firm, one that’s assisted the UNC system in the past, to find candidates for the job. And Rule No. 1, apparently, is that the search panel will agree to keep all candidates’ names confidential. Members even signed pledges to that effect.

Funk’s firm pitched this thought: “The best candidates will not want to feel that they are in competition, will be very sensitive to public disclosure of their candidacies and will require constant ‘hand-holding’ throughout the process.”

What? This isn’t a case of international espionage behind enemy lines. It’s picking a person for a public job, who will be paid handsomely with public dollars (more than $400,000 a year) and will be in charge of a campus where all business must be done openly.

UNC system President Tom Ross told search committee members they should look for a strong leader with “unwavering integrity.” Of course, and why would someone with the confidence and experience to be in the running for the job need “hand-holding”?

Funk told the committee that lots of universities are looking for presidents and Chapel Hill would be in that mix. But this happens to be a very prestigious job in American higher education, and there will be no shortage of candidates.

As far as secrecy goes, it’s a strain to think that candidates themselves wouldn’t let the word seep out that they were being courted.

Public disclosure adds a layer of “vetting” to the choice process. If names are disclosed, perhaps once finalists are selected, colleagues of the candidates, informed members of the public, faculty members in Chapel Hill, etc., can have input. That would be of value to committee members trying to make a good choice.

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