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Trustees to move forward with presidential search process; search firm to be sought

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The board of trustees made it abundantly clear at their Wednesday meeting that they want the presidential search to press on.

Elizabeth Scheibel, chair of the board, began the conversation about the presidential search by announcing the board members who will lead the presidential search committee.

Trustees Steven Marcus ’88 and Terrell Hill ’92 will be the chair and vice-chair, respectively.

The committee will be comprised in the near future and will be made up of other trustees, administration, faculty, staff, and students in an effort to make the decision on who will be the twentieth president of Westfield State University transparent.

Scheibel had then commented that the board had felt it prudent to hold off on the search until after the release of the report that was being compiled by the Office of the Inspector General on the Dobelle scandal.

The board of trustees also needed to fill vacant positions, which were completed earlier in the academic year with the appointments of Robert Martin and Robert Johnson and last week with the appointments of Madeline Landrau and Linda Slakey.

She then applauded interim president Elizabeth Preston’s idea of having meetings with the university vice presidents and presidents of the various unions.

Scheibel acknowledged that it was very good to get the perspectives of the various constituencies.

“This is where the real stuff is,” said Marcus.

He was very happy to see how impassioned they were.

Scheibel then affirmed that she is “ready to move forward with a search” using a search firm.

“This process should grow organically or move organically…with assistance of a search firm, the search committee will make the next steps,” she added.

“I think I can speak for the board when I say that we want this to be inclusive,” she ended.

Trustee Luis Perez said that what Scheibel had said is echoed “loud and clear.”

He affirmed the board’s position that new members should participate in the process, which was the original motive for waiting until the board was full to resume the search.

At that point, Scheibel interjected and said that she took new members joining and the board generally not knowing each other into account when making her decision.

Former board chair Kevin Queenin agreed with Scheibel and Perez.

“Rather than focusing on the start date, we need to focus on the process,” he said.

Once a search firm is chosen, they will work with the presidential search committee to establish a timeline.

Trustee Martin was another in agreement.

“I think [Scheibel] put it very well,” he started.

Martin began talking about how the university community should be involved in defining what qualities we want the new president to have.

“The process defines what a president is and what a president is not,” he said. The trustees all nodded in agreement.

A conversation needs to happen about where the university wants to go in five or ten years, he said to more head nods.

“In the final analysis, you don’t know if a search was successful until a year or two after you’ve hired the person…searches are more likely to be successful when the university has its act together with what qualities the person has to have,” he said.

Landrau added that it is good to take the time to be diligent and efficient.

Johnson gave the final comments on the issue. “A quality outcome is better than a timely one,” he said to many nods and approvals.

He complimented Preston on allowing the trustees to be in a position where they do not have to rush to find a permanent president.

Now that the board of trustees agreed to continue the process of the presidential search, a request for proposal will be sent out to solicit search firms to place bids.

The bids will return and the university will make a decision on what search firm that they will use by January.

The timetable, which will conclude with the new president’s first day in office, will be determined by the search firm and the presidential search committee.

After the meeting, Scheibel said, “Now that we are two and a half months past the OIG report, the university has put into place, both before the report and subsequent, the recommendations that will strengthen the university and prevent risks of the activities happening again.”

She added, “I’m excited to begin moving the university forward. We have a great group of students, faculty, administration, and staff who are stakeholders in finding a new president. I look forward to hearing from everyone and getting their input in finding the right person who will move us forward.”

Zack Mazzone, a senior elementary education major, was relieved by the search moving forward.

“Finally! It’s been a long time coming so it’s a relief,” he said.

Rebecca DiVico, president of the Student Government Association and a would-be ex officio member of the presidential search committee, said, “I am so happy that Dr. Preston has been our interim president, but I’m also very excited that the process is beginning and I look forward to being able to be an advocate for the type of president Westfield State University students deserve.”

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