Search committee joins faculty, student, community members

The Board of Regents approved the 16-member Presidential Search and Screen Committee, adding two more members from the original 14 it was originally slated to have. One student was appointed to the committee.

Regents Chair Terry Mann approved Joseph Fons as the student representative, and addressed questions about a conflict of interest in the selection process.

Fons and SGA President Dustin Robinson are both members of the Sigma Epsilon fraternity, with Robinson serving as Fons’s “big brother,” or mentor, in the organization. Fons is also an SGA senator.

Robinson, in his role as SGA president, received the student applications and assisted Mann select the student representative.

Despite the possibility of a perceived conflict, Mann and Robinson stand by the decision.

“There could not have been a conflict because the appointment was mine,” Mann said. “There was never any effort on Dustin’s part to suggest to me who would be the better appointment.”

Robinson helped oversee the student selection process by working with Mann to create a set of criteria by which to rank candidates.

Robinson said he compiled the criteria to look for the best student representative, then sent it to Mann who approved it, but added a GPA qualifier.

Students were asked to submit a resume and letter of intent, wherein they were to explain their interest in the process and why they are qualified to be on the board.

“It was facilitated through student government; but, ultimately, the decision was made by the Regents,” Robinson said. “If I ever thought I couldn’t be fair to students I would remove myself.”

He added that if the Regents were concerned about any conflict of interest, “it was never brought to my attention.

“I did make it as fair as possible, considering the circumstances,” Robinson said. “I didn’t do any of the rankings for the position. I let the executive board do that and use that as our slate. Fons and I are friends, and I didn’t want that to be something that could be perceived as bias.”

After the student applications were collected, Robinson got to work.

“I compiled all the apps, blacked out all the names so that it would be as blind as possible and had the [Executive] Board review all of these and send me … their top three applications,” Robinson said.

All applications were also sent to the dean of students office to ensure the applicants were in good academic standing, Robinson said. He added there was not a minimum GPA requirement.

Robinson said there were eight applications, and not all of the applicants were SGA members. He did not provide their applications, citing privacy. Mann also declined to provide the applications, citing the same reason. The Northerner is still working to obtain this information.

After Robinson received the executive board’s top three choices, he forwarded them to Mann with his own “little blurb about just what I knew about each candidate individually personally, so they would have my perspective and the executive board’s perspective. That way they had just a little extra input as well.”

“He demonstrated all the things I believe were criteria for the student representative,” Robinson said. “He showed involvement, he has a very good GPA and his letter of intent covered everything we were looking for.”

Mann said there was never any “explanation of connections or interests” of the applicants. Instead, there was comments saying “just this student has done this, wishes this,” comments on the applications.

“If the SGA had sent only one person to me … I wouldn’t have accepted that,” Mann said. “It wasn’t the process.”

Fons declined an interview with The Northerner, saying he is only available via email. Dean of Students Jeffrey Waple, who also serves as SGA adviser, said he advised all SGA members not to speak to The Northerner either in person or over the phone.

To get a comment from Fons, The Northerner would need to submit the questions to Waple, and then he would forward them to Fons, Waple said. Per the newspaper’s policy, The Northerner does not conduct news interviews via email and does not submit questions through third parties.

Mann asked for help from various community, faculty and staff groups to help select the committee members.

“We asked for legitimate input from various stakeholders as to who would be positive and capable members of a search and screening committee and we did get that,” Mann said.

As the committee was being assembled, Mann said he thought the university deserved more representation, so he added another faculty member and a non-teaching staff member.

He said he did not consider adding another student member to the committee.

“At some point you say we can’t handle a larger committee,” Mann said. “I came to the conclusion that 16 was as large as we could go. I would have loved to appoint another student to the committee.”

Mann added, “Truthfully, I thought we had a process that would produce the most viable student representation on the committee. I recognized the student body needed a voice on the committee, [but] you reach a point when numbers become difficult to deal with.”

The committee held its first meeting Sept. 13, Mann said. In the coming weeks, the committee will begin selecting a firm to help recruit applicants. They will also organize open forums for students to discuss their vision for NKU and what kind of characteristics they think the next president should have.