OXFORD – Nearly two dozen faculty, staff, students, alumni and townspeople got their marching orders Thursday in the effort to find the University of Mississippi’s next chancellor.
The Search Advisory Committee met with Institutions of Higher Learning staff members and Atlanta-based executive head-hunters hired to lead the search for Robert Khayat’s successor.
“You’re here not just because we want to appear to be open,” said Dr. Aubrey Lucas, interim commissioner of higher education for the state’s university system. “You’re really the gatekeepers for this search. The next chancellor of this university must come through you.”
Dan Parker, president of Parker Executive Search, explained that each committee member will represent a certain university constituency’s priorities for the search.
“We hope you’ll go back and communicate with faculty or staff or medical center personnel to ask for their nominations,” Parker said. “We beg you to engage in the process.”
After signing pledges of confidentiality to protect candidates’ identities, Search Advisory Committee members will be able to review application letters, rampésumampés and other materials from candidates via a secure Web site.
“By having confidentiality, you will have better candidates. It’s that simple,” Parker said. “The best candidates will not submit their information until pretty much the last minute. They want to trust the system and be confidential.”
IHL officials learned the hard way how valuable confidentiality is: At least two candidates several years ago were fired from the posts that they already held when their names surfaced in Mississippi searches.
Search Advisory Committee members voiced their own priorities for the university’s next chancellor. Many reflected Khayat’s strengths, such as commitment to Ole Miss, fundraising abilities, understanding of athletics and integrity. Others suggested expanded emphases for his successor in such areas as study-abroad opportunities, graduate education and research.
“We need to find a successor and not a replacement for our chancellor,” said Oxford attorney Cal Mayo. “A lot of people have said we need to find a clone of Robert Khayat, but … that person doesn’t exist.”
Search Advisory Committee members will seek nominations and review candidate materials. Near the end of the search they will recommend at least five candidates and will choose a handful of their own members to participate in the interviews with IHL board members.
Those interviews are designed to yield a preferred candidate, who will then meet with university constituency groups for their review before being voted on by the entire IHL Board of Trustees. Board members hope for a decision in early May so a successor can be in place when Khayat’s retirement takes effect on June 30.
Errol Castens/Daily Journal