GVSU must be transparent in upcoming dean of students decision

By Lanthorn Editorial Board | 3/19/18 12:19am

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Last spring, Grand Valley State University President Thomas Haas announced his appointment of Maria Cimitile as provost and executive vice president for academic and student affairs. Preceding this decision was a lengthy selection process that had begun a year prior. Toward the end of the fall 2016 semester, GVSU identified a number of candidates to interview, and three were invited to participate in a campus-wide open-interview process.

Following this, Haas explained that despite bringing in "folks that were qualified," he received feedback from many different people and determined that the right person was not in that mix. From here, the committee brought three more candidates to campus in April 2017 for interviews, but the search ultimately came up short again.

Haas admitted that although he was disappointed the search didn't produce a provost, he really wanted to make sure they "had the right person with the right fit." Gayle Davis, who was provost at the time (and has since retired), mimicked Haas' sentiment, saying, “While the applicants who were interviewed were interesting people, Grand Valley is distinctive enough that none of the candidates were likely to fulfill all of our needs." 

The search was subsequently conducted internally, leading to the appointment of Cimitile, who had seven years of experience in the provost’s office under her belt at the time. While it may be true that Cimitile was the best choice for the position, the search process, as it turned out, did not involve the GVSU community at all. Rather, it only provided the illusion of transparency. 

GVSU arranged to conduct interviews with various candidates and let them share public presentations with the GVSU community, making the entire process seem transparent and, to some degree, involving students, faculty and staff in the selection process. But, as it turned out, the last-minute selection of an internal pick who had not gone through that same public process meant that the initial "transparency" and involvement of the GVSU community was all for naught.

But why bring this up now? As it turns out, GVSU is currently searching for the next dean of students. University administration needs to look at the provost search as a lesson to be legitimately transparent this time around. Rather than conducting a lengthy public search that appears to involve the GVSU community in the final pick and then really doesn't, administration should take this chance to be up front about—and inclusive in—their selection process. 

As the dean of students (and the Dean of Students Office) is meant to support and assist both students and staff, campus involvement is critical in this decision. If GVSU decides to hold a campus-wide open-interview process to find a new dean of students, the position should be filled by one of those candidates in the end. 

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