Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Search and Screen: Why the big deal?

So, as you might have noticed from this blog or (probably more accurately) Mr. Spirn, the search and screen committee was a little heated and contentious.

Now, when we're talking about a search for the next Chancellor, it's obvious that tons of people are going to vie for these two spots and the debate over representation is an important one to have. However, what I saw that night represented both the dedication of ASM to really accurately represent students and their failure to make significant progress.

They started interviewing people at around 5:15, starting with Alex Gallagher of SSFC. After beginning with a little more lengthy presentation, Jeff Wright and the rest of them agreed that they should limit the questioning to two questions and another general question about the time commitment.

After the twelve candidates went through and made their case, ASM members left after the two hour interviews went back to the fifth floor of Memorial Union and debated the candidates. They ended up seeing four candidates as strongest — Alex Gallagher, Suchita Shah, Kaja Rebane and Erik Paulson.

Now, Kaja made a great presentation of her involvement at the graduate level, as she's the co-president of TAA and would certainly be their advocate at the table. Given how strongly she felt about Mr. Wiley's problems with the Legislature, she was obviously going to be very critical of anyone who stepped foot into that room claiming to be Chancellor material.

Then there was Suchita. Who many of us in the blogosphere and at the paper know. Campus Queen? Well, if that's what you label her, maybe it's deserved. While she certainly has the resume, credentials and ideals to back it up, Suchita admitted herself that the presentation and interview she gave was a little weak. However, that was probably just nerves. She impressed much of ASM and that's to be understood — she's a neuroscience major that runs with College Dems, did SOAR, did research on the Charter Plant, the list goes on and on. Perhaps the list is almost sickening to some on campus who would ask, "Yeah, but does she understand the concern of students?"

And when it came down to it, that was the second biggest question: Who's going to represent students best?
The biggest question, however, was of what would be a greater fault — two graduate students representing campus or two ASMers?

I personally felt that two graduate students would be a huge mistake and Jeff Wright and others seemed to agree.

Here's what really angered me about the ASM argument. They were worried that the student body would see this as unrepresentative of campus. Excuse me? So, ASM is arguing that they don't represent students? Great way to boost your legitimacy. As I said there and will say again, if you don't believe ASM is viewed as doing just that, then maybe you shouldn't be part of ASM. Let's not forget, ASM is technically the entire student body. The people who serve on committee are just those who showed more active involvement and engagement (most times) in campus. Even the resume boosters have to know something to get on those committees.

That being said, we all know ASM has major flaws that need to be fixed. But you can't say that they (some of them) aren't trying.

Yet, above all, the most bizarre part of this discussion isn't that it went on for 2 hours or that it came down to two tie votes. Or that some people thought the TAA agenda was something to be supported without opposition. Although given how visible pissed off she was, that certainly did serve as a big dent in her application.

It was that the tone of the discussion wasn't really a debate, even during its most heated portion. It was people making opposite points without criticizing the those opinion. Someone mentions the ASMers problem, then someone mentions the Graduate student experience and how they have a more broad approach then we anticipate. Then someone else mentions the same first point. And someone else broaches the second point again. Very little discussion of the actual qualities involved in searching for the next chancellor occurred, most focused on what the student body is going to best represented by.

Basically, it was like if the debaters had headphones on so as to not hear the other side. There were certainly concerns, but I'm not sure people we're really making their points very well.

Now, let me just say, for the people who stayed, that was dedication. To spend two hours deciding over five people can get tedious when you've already spent an additional 2 hours and 15 minutes listening to candidates.

However, when people start defending candidates simply because, "They have a passion" but discount other candidates because, "He talked too much about private fundraising," that's bullshit. Yes, we're a public university, but that comes from how well the chancellor communicates the true position of the university to Rep. Nass and the constant skeptics. Private fundraising requires just as much, if not more work. And it is far less guaranteed.

But I digress. Suchita was finally voted in along with Erik and they adjourned. Jeff looked visibly shaken, but he really held it together well considering the strange isolated debates going on among the crowd.

Apparently they're both going to be holding listening sessions with different schools, so once that starts to happen, I'll go cover that. However, for now, I'm concerned with ASMs role. I only wish I could have been more involved, from an earlier stage, steer it a little.

Wishful thinking.

1 comment:

Jeffrey Wright said...

Great post, Jason. All fine points. I agree with your comments regarding Erik and Suchita's experience in ASM. To think that we should be cautious about naming appointees who have experience in student government is ridiculous.

Your point about the debate and discussion is interesting. I think a meeting aimed at preparing students on Shared Gov for the one we had on Tuesday would have been helpful, but we simply did not have the time (given finals/winter break).