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Proposed changes to CSU selection process slows search for CSUN’s next president

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The search for CSUN’s next president is running behind schedule thanks to a restructuring of the selection process by CSU officials, who will vote on the proposed changes Sept. 20 and 21.

Recent controversy over president salary raises and simultaneous tuition hikes prompted the board of trustees to renovate compensation and selection policies.

California State Student Association (CSSA) asked student government on the 23 CSU campuses to draft their approval or rejection of the proposed changes.

A.S. President Amanda Flavin urged her senators Tuesday to remain neutral on the proposed changes, because vague language makes it unclear how the changes will affect students.

“We will be guinea pigs,” she said.

Proposed changes include appointing four, instead of three, trustee members to the initial committee, including the chancellor in committee meetings to discuss internal candidates, and making formerly-mandatory campus visits optional, Flavin said during a presentation the sentate Tuesday.

Students opinion of presidential candidates are welcome, but have no power in choosing their president’s successor, said Mike Uhlenkamp, director of media relations at the chancellor’s office.

Students and media can serve as constructive criticism during open meetings held by the CSU board of trustees and Chancellor Charles Reed, said Uhlenkamp, who described it as a transparent public process.

But Flavin said removing mandatory campus visits could muddy that transparency.

“If there are no visits, (students could think) there is an air of secrecy to process,” Flavin said during Tuesday’s meeting.  “They may feel like their voices are not being heard.”

The vacant position is open to any candidate within the CSU system, external and international applicants, said Stephanie Thara, CSU web communications specialist.

The chancellor chooses a group of candidates selected by the committee which are then verified by the board of trustees, Chapin said. Once narrowed down to a handful of applicants, the chancellor will hold a public meeting with media, A.S. representatives and faculty.

Finding a replacement typically takes about six months, said Liz Chapin, CSU public affairs assistant.

But as CSUN begins the fall semester, the university is approaching five months since President Jolene Koester announced her retirement, and the search committee has not begun its work.

“The longer we wait, the longer we’ll have an interim president,” Flavin said during Tuesday’s senate meeting.  “Because no matter what, President Koester is retiring in December.”

Interim presidents, chosen by Chancellor Charles Reed, may not make the best decisions for the campus because they hold a temporary position, and a new president needs time to assimilate to campus, Flavin said in an interview.

How long it takes to find presidential candidates is subjective and there is no time limit to the search, Thara said.

But the process may have hit a snag since there are no specific dates set to announce a president and no candidates have been reviewed, Chapin said.

Before Koester’s appointment in 1999, Louanne Kennedy served as CSUN’s interim president for five months, according to a press release from that time. Kennedy returned to her position as CSUN provost after Koester was chosen.

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