BY THE GMU CHAPTER OF AAUP, TRANSPARENT GMU, AND GMU RETIRED FACULTY ASSOCIATION, CONTRIBUTORS
Thank you for applying to be the next president of George Mason University. As a candidate, we are certain that the executive search firm has told you that we are now the largest public university in Virginia, designated R1 by the Carnegie Classification, with an annual budget exceeding $1 billion, and that Mason has an exceptional faculty, staff and student body. But we’d like to take this opportunity to share with you a bit more about us and our hopes for this current search process.
We know that a growing number of presidential searches today are conducted using a “secret search” process. These are different from the historical norm, in which the final candidates came to campus to meet with various stakeholders and made public presentations. Until 2011, Mason used this public approach. Both George Johnson, our president for 17 years, and Alan Merten, president for 15 years, made public presentations during their candidacy.
However, our most recent president was selected by a secret search process that precluded any engagement from the general faculty, students or staff. There were no public presentations and the community learned the name of the new president at a press conference. The search was conducted in total secrecy; search committee members even had to sign non-disclosure agreements. The results of this process left many feeling resentful and dismissed.
What concerned many of us at the time was not just the break with tradition, but that our Faculty Handbook contained a specific requirement that the final candidates in a presidential search “must” meet with the general faculty. Today, the language in our Faculty Handbook remains unchanged. Yet our Board of Visitors (BOV) has made it clear that, just as in 2011, they intend to conduct this year’s search, for which you are a candidate, in secret. We have been told thus far that you will not be asked to meet with the faculty or to make a public presentation. The BOV insists that you might not have applied for the position had you been aware that your name would be made public once you became a finalist. The BOV has thus prioritized your privacy over the value of community engagement in public searches.
We find this unacceptable. Last week, we shared with the BOV our resolution signed by nearly 300 faculty calling for a public search. And our Faculty Senate recently passed a motion calling “for a search … to include a public forum for each finalist where s/he is invited to give a presentation to include the General Faculty, as well as students and staff, followed by a question and answer period.”
We are not asking you to release your name as an applicant for the position now. Unless or until you become a finalist, we support your right to privacy. But if you are named as a finalist and accept the invitation to be considered as such, we would like to meet you! Meeting us will not only help us get to know you, but will also give you a much better sense of our Mason community and whether this is the right place for you.
Our request is simple. Please ask the BOV for the opportunity to come to campus to meet with us. Not only will you be upholding the requirement stated in our Faculty Handbook, but more importantly, you will be demonstrating what we consider to be one of the most essential qualifications stated in the position description, “A work ethic that prioritizes shared governance, integrity, and transparency as core values that shape all campus processes and decision-making.”
We look forward to meeting you in the weeks ahead.
GMU Chapter of the American Association of University Professors
GMU Retired Faculty Association