President search committee starts coming together

Eleanor Dearman and Alex Wilts

With President William Powers Jr. set to leave his position in June 2015, Paul Foster, UT System Board of Regents chairman, is in the process of forming a search committee to find candidates to replace him.

In July, Powers agreed with Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa to set his resignation for June 2015. Cigarroa initially asked Powers to resign in October, but Powers requested to stay on until after the 2015 legislative session.

At the regents meeting Thursday, Foster announced Pedro Reyes, executive vice chancellor for academic affairs, and Larry Faulkner, who served as University president from 1998-2006, would both chair the committee. Foster also said an outside firm would be hired to help the committee identify candidates.

“I am asking the committee to bring to the board the broadest possible slate of highly-qualified, experienced and skilled leaders with exceptional dedication and talent necessary to lead the University of Texas at Austin,” Foster said.

In accordance with the Regents’ Rules and Regulations, Foster said he will also select board members and System institution presidents to the committee as well as alumni and external members. Naval Adm. William McRaven, who will become System chancellor in January, has agreed to serve as one of the external members on the committee. In addition, a University dean will also serve on the committee, as elected by his fellow deans.

The Faculty Council is in the process of selecting three faculty members to serve in the search committee. Elections between nine finalists are being held until Thursday. Once the voting period is over, the regents will review the winning candidates for approval.

Erika Frahm, senior program coordinator for University Human Resources and former Staff Council chair, was nominated for the staff position on the committee on Aug. 21.

The sole student spot on the committee will be filled by Geetika Jerath, Senate of College Councils president. Jerath was selected in a vote between her, Student Government President Kori Rady and David Villarreal, Graduate Student Assembly president.

“I’ll definitely include [Student Government and GSA] as much as I can in the process,” Jerath said. “For the all of the other students as well, I’m currently working on an outreach plan to see how I can reach out to as many of them, whether it’s attending their meetings or reaching out to them online and receiving as much feedback as possible going into the process.”

On Aug. 12, the three student leaders requested the System add a second spot to the search committee, which would be filled by Rady.

“At this point I don’t have much information since they are working on setting up the committee,” Jerath said.  “I’m sure that once they set it up we will be given more information as a whole.”

Rady said he will stay as involved as possible in the presidential search process even if the request is not filled.

“I’ll stay in contact with [Jerath] who is our student representative, and I will make sure I inform people on what she’s experiencing and what she thinks the students would like to see in a president.” Rady said. “I’ll be her council on that.”

Jerath said the second student spot is being requested in order to include as many students as possible in the presidential search. 

While the students have not received a formal response, UT System employee Karen Adler said the search committee’s structure would follow the regents’ rules, which specifies only one student will be selected for the search committee. According to Adler, the only time two students have been on a presidential search committee in recent history was for UT-Rio Grande Valley, a institution formed by the merger of UT-Brownsville and UT-Pan American.

“It would be rather extraordinary to give them a second spot,” Foster said to reporters after Thursday’s regents meeting.