A pool of finalists for the presidency of East Tennessee State University will have been chosen by the end of the day today.
Interviews for the school’s top executive position began Wednesday morning at the Millennium Centre with four of eight candidates being questioned about tuition increases, student retention, shared governance of the school among faculty, staff and students, equity pay for faculty and staff, fundraising, diversity on campus, athletics and other things.
The interviews began around 9:30 a.m. and lasted about one hour and 15 minutes each, with candidates given the last of the sessions to ask questions of the presidential search advisory committee, which selected the eight for face-to-face interviews from 49 who applied.
The interviews occurred in the following order:
— Cheryl Scheid, vice chancellor for academic, faculty and student affairs and dean at University of Tennessee Health Sciences Center.
— Richard Manahan, vice president for university advancement and president/CEO of the Foundation at ETSU.
— Robert Frank, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at Kent State University.
— Ronald Brown, provost and vice president for academic affairs at Wayne State University.
Following the interviews, which consisted of the same 12 questions for each candidate, a review session was held in which the search committee discussed strengths and weaknesses of each applicant.
Interviewing ended around 4:30 p.m. Discussion ended around 5 p.m.
In a community meeting in August, people were asked what qualities a president should have or with what issues he or she should be concerned. While many opinions were given, there were two recurring themes: equity pay and the issue of football.
Questions dealt specifically with those issues Wednesday.
Fred Alsop, who is on the search committee, asked the question about equity pay. He said ETSU ranks dead last in the nation in terms of faculty pay. All the candidates thought equity pay should be a priority for the next ETSU president.
“Clearly we’re all about educating students, but it’s the faculty that makes that happen,” Scheid said. “And you lose good people if you don’t pay them.”
Manahan wondered how the pay at the school was so far from the average. As president, he would make the issue a priority, he said.
“I would have to know from the faculty how you would proceed with that,” Manahan said.
Frank said pay for both faculty and staff should be increased at ETSU and suggested linking raises with retention rates and cutting costs where possible.
“I think you can’t brag about being a great university and then say that you’re paying people less than anyone in the country,” Frank said.
Brown said there were many ways to increase pay, perhaps based on performance and not across the board.
“You need to keep up with compensation,” Brown said. “You’re not going to get anywhere if your salaries are falling behind.”
Football was cut by ETSU President Paul E. Stanton Jr. in 2003, because the program was losing money. A vote was put to the students in 2007 to resurrect football, but it was not approved.
All candidates were asked about football and athletics in general.
Scheid said it seemed odd not to have a football game for homecoming, which for ETSU is next weekend. She said getting football back was a complex issue.
“I do believe it’s an important component of student life,” Scheid said of collegiate sports. “It’s one of the reasons alumni stay connected. It’s one of the reasons the community stays connected.”
Manahan said it would take years to bring football back to ETSU, but he recognized it was a concern for many in the community. All the options for returning football have not been laid out on the table yet, he said.
“I think you’ve got to continue to look at it,” Manahan said.
Frank said he went to college on an athletic scholarship, so he understood the value of sports programs. He said they can be great marketing tools when used correctly. Frank said ETSU has done a lot in regard to athletics with a budget of only $10 million.
Brown said managing athletics should be done with sensible solutions.
“I think athletics does a lot of good things as far as retention,” Brown said.
The remaining four candidates will be interviewed on the same topics beginning at 8:30 a.m. today in the Millennium Centre. The interviews will be conducted in the same format in the following order:
n Sandra Patterson-Randles, president of Indiana University Southeast.
n Brian Noland, chancellor at the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission.
n Jack Maynard, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs at Indiana State University.
n Michael Wartell, chancellor of Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne.
At the conclusion of today’s interviews, the search committee will ask some of the eight candidates to return to campus next week for meetings with campus groups, including faculty, staff and students.
Tennessee Board of Regents Chancellor John Morgan, who is attending the interviews, will then take input from the committee on the finalists who visit the campus and recommend a candidate to the full board for approval or rejection.
Stanton, who has been president since 1997, plans to retire in January.