Search for David Boren's successor: Boren advocates for confidential presidential search process in op-ed

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David Boren

OU President David Boren sits in his office on Oct. 23.

OU President David Boren reached out the The Daily Feb. 12 to share his thoughts and personal experience regarding the university's ongoing presidential search:

I have been following the public discussion about the search process to find my successor and felt that it might be helpful for me to share some thoughts and personal experiences.

The first task of the Board of Regents was to appoint a search committee broadly representative of the university community. They have done exactly that by selecting members nominated to the regents from lists from the faculty and staff senates and the Student Government Association. In addition, the regents have selected alumni with records of commitment to the university.

Once chosen, the goal of this diverse search committee is to attract as many qualified persons as possible to agree to be considered for the presidency.

Confidentiality is needed to attract highly qualified prospects. Several may hold important posts which they don’t want to risk, and they will not agree to be considered unless the process assures that their names will not be revealed. In fact, most of our peer Big 12 institutions did not disclose the names of candidates in their most recent presidential searches.

I learned of the importance of confidentiality several years ago when I, as a trustee, also served on the search committee for the new president of Yale University. Several good candidates only allowed themselves to be considered when they were assured of confidentiality.

In addition, a distinguished scholar who was our tentative first choice decided to withdraw from consideration after he was informed that he was the frontrunner. If such information had been public, it would have seriously damaged the rest of the process because anyone selected would not want to feel that he or she was not the first choice.

In my own case at OU, confidentiality was also very important. As a U.S. Senator who planned to run for re-election, I could not afford the public perception that I wanted to leave my current post. Had I participated in a public contest and not have been selected, it would have done severe damage to my career. I would have missed out on what has been the most rewarding experience of my life.

My interest in the presidency of OU was kept completely confidential by the search committee, with whom I met, and by the regents. If it had not been kept confidential, I could never have applied.

At the conclusion of our current process, some very fine individuals will not be selected as president. They do not deserve to be embarrassed or undermined in their current positions. I understand the desire for broad participation. In many ways, the process used in appointing the search committee has already assured that all major groups in our community will have appropriate input.

We must not forget that if our goal is to find the best possible person to serve as the next president of the university, confidentiality in the process is required.

Editor's note: Boren's op-ed comes after members of OU's faculty, including College of International Studies dean Suzette Grillot, created a petition to the Board of Regents advocating for a more open search process and a chance for the OU community to meet and consider all presidential candidates. The petition, open to all members of the OU community, will be sent to the regents by Feb. 16. The search committee that will select OU's next president consists of seven at-large members with one vote each, five faculty members with one vote each, two staff members with half a vote each and three student members with one-third vote each. 

The piece also comes days after OU Price College dean Daniel Pullin announced his candidacy for the presidential position. The executive assistant to Oklahoma City University President Robert Henry has said that though Henry was nominated for the position, he "declined to be considered." 

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