UPDATED: Thoughts on the UAlbany Presidential Candidates
What this post isn’t:
First and foremost, I’m not on the presidential search committee, was never on any presidential search committee, and have no knowledge of the search committee’s deliberations. I was a graduate student representative to the University Council, which the search committee reports to, but I had and have no involvement with the search. This is important because I also want to note I’m not leaking any information. Anything below is now public knowledge because of someone leaking the names. This kind of bothers me. I wish, for once, the committee could actually be confidential. Remember the last search fell apart after the names were leaked… Also, I’m not going to tell you who I think should be President because you and I can’t base that on their names and Google search results alone. That said, “here are the nominees” per the Times Union and some thoughts.
- Susan Phillips, UAlbany’s provost and vice president for academic affairs;
- Robert Palazzo, former Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute provost;
- Carlos Santiago, chief executive officer of the Hispanic College Fund and a former UAlbany provost;
- Bjong Wolf Yeigh, president of the State University of New York Institute of Technology in Utica and Morrisville State College;
- David Wilson, president of Morgan State University;
- John Roberts, dean of University of Houston’s College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences;
- Valeria Hardcastle, dean of the McMicken College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Cincinnati;
- Carlo Montemagno, dean of the College of Engineering and Applied Science at the University of Cincinnati;
- Steve Ballard, chancellor of East Carolina University.
First, there are some interesting potential rivalries here. There are two University of Cincinnati deans under consideration (Hardcastle and Montemagno) and two people who have served as Provost of UAlbany (Phillips and Santiago). In fact, Phillips and Santiago were both under consideration for the UMass Amherst Chancellorship. They were two of the four semi-finalists before Phillips and another candidate dropped out. In the final two Santiago ended up not getting appointed.
Second, I strongly believe that one of these nine will be the next President. In the past, like I mentioned, all the applicants dropped out after their names were leaked publically (and perhaps after getting wind of the turmoil to come in New York State). This time I feel like there are enough candidates that aren’t going to be concerned about their names leaking. There is nothing wrong with Phillips’ name being out there since it’s the same institution. Santiago has been actively looking so it won’t surprise his current employer and Palazzo is no longer Provost at RPI so it won’t be a shock to them that he is trying to get a new job. The rest, though, you don’t know. All the dean’s and current presidents could end up getting counter offers to stay. But, at least there are three that I feel like would take the job if they were offered.
Third, there are a lot of connections to SUNY Chancellor Zimpher. There are the two Cincinnati deans (where Zimpher was previously), and Yeigh who is one of the dual-campus Presidents that Zimpher created. Technically, the search committee recommends the next President to the University Council who recommends to the SUNY Board but the Chancellor is the one who actually makes the appointment. So I’m curious what if any dynamic she will have on this process. Also of note, SUNYIT is disputing that Yeigh is being considered. He was previously a candidate for another Presidency and withdrew his name. I have no idea, but it could be a way for a sitting President to get a raise. I mean, that’s what I would do! Or, he may be genuinely interested, or he might not be in the running. Who knows!
Fourth, I’m concerned about the pace at which some of the candidates appear to be “moving up”. Wilson, for example, has only been President for 2 years (although he does have two Harvard degrees!) Dean Roberts has also only been in that post for 2 years. One of my biggest concerns is getting someone who will be here for a while. I see that in Hardcastle (dean for 5 years), Montemagno (dean for 6 years), and Ballard (chancellor for 8 years).
Fifth, some of these candidates are not going to sit well with the UAlbany faculty. Phillips was involved with program deactivations so there will be people that don’t want her there. I’m not one of them, I think she’s awesome. Some faculty will not like Palazzo because of him disbanding the faculty senate at RPI. I can’t blame them, but I also see where he was coming from. Santiago was before my time, but based on my experience with faculty, I’m sure some of them will dislike him for some reason. No one ever pleases everyone so it would be hard for him to make a return to Albany.
OK, I lied; I will tell you who I like. Top three in no particular order: Montemagno, Ballard, Hardcastle. A close 4th would be Palazzo or Phillips. I don’t know if the committee will go for either Phillips or Palazzo. I do kind of think we need an outsider to come in and bring us forward, which is unfortunate because I think we would lose Phillips, and I really like and respect her. I don’t think the faculty would go for Palazzo because of the Faculty Senate issue at RPI, but maybe they will. Like I said, tenure length is very important for me which is why I would really like to see those top three. But, I will say they all are great candidates, and I’m confident one of them will be President soon.
UPDATE: Provost Phillips was kind enough to email me. She states: “I wanted to let you know that I am not a finalist as the TU suggests, and in fact have withdrawn my name from consideration in the search.” As I replied to her, I never envied her or President Philip in the hard issues they’ve had to deal with, but I did admire and respect their leadership. I would note that the TU hasn’t updated their story to reflect that Phillips and Yeigh have stated they are NOT under consideration.