May 3, 2002

C.U. Presidential Search Committee Schedules Forums

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Although many students will enjoy a respite from work once the semester ends, the Presidential Search Committee will continue its efforts to find a replacement for President Hunter R. Rawlings III, who plans to step down next year.

The committee has planned several forums so that members of various Cornell constituencies can voice their concerns and suggestions about the University and its future leader. In addition to this week’s student forum, there will be a faculty forum on May 7, a meeting for Cornell employees on May 8 and a meeting for all members of the Weill Cornell Medical College and the Graduate School of Medical Sciences on May 16.

The information that the committee gathers at the various forums, along with input from alumni, will enable it to create a case statement which will identify its criteria for a future president and describes Cornell’s current and future challenges, according to Jan Rock Zubrow ’77, a member of the search committee.

“We will try to distill out common themes … and create a picture of what characteristics and credentials the next president needs to have,” said Edwin H. Morgens ’63, vice chair of the Cornell Board of Trustees and chair of the search committee. “There tends to be convergence on what [people believe] the characteristics of the next president need to be.”

The committee will also gather input from members of the Ithaca community.

“We want to keep the community feeling as though Cornell is a part of it,” Morgens said.

To generate its preliminary list of candidates, which will likely include 150 to 200 names, the committee will run an advertisement in the Chronicle of Higher Education and gather suggestions from Cornell community members, according to Morgens.

In 1994, during the last search for a president, “some very strange names were suggested,” Morgens said. Because of this, many names are dismissed easily.

After the committee narrows its list to about 50 candidates, they will begin checking backgrounds in areas such as academic credentials, administrative experience and fundraising records.

“We will be building and winnowing the list at the same time,” Morgens said.

When it has reduced its list to a few possibilities, the members of the search committee will meet with the candidates.

Throughout much of this process, the public will remain unaware of the committee’s list of candidates.

“We go silent during this process,” Morgens said. “Unless [the process] is confidential, many of the best candidates won’t show up.”

According to Morgens, many candidates already hold excellent jobs, and “it destroys their credentials if it is known they are looking for a job at Cornell.”

For confidentiality reasons, much of the search process is removed from Ithaca and will take place in New York City.

The committee has no definite timeline for the process, according to Morgens. The last search committee presented Rawlings to the public approximately six months before President Emeritus Frank H. T. Rhodes stepped down.

“Technically, we have until June 30,” Morgens said, noting that it would be “unfortunate” if it took that long to find Rawlings’ successor.

Rawlings will remain uninvolved in the search process, according to Morgens.

“We invited him to the committee’s organizational meeting to download his thoughts on the task,” Morgens said, adding that Rawlings will not be included in the rest of the process. “The president should not be involved in picking his successor.”

Archived article by Stephanie Hankin