The unanimous vote that really was?
Beware of those unamious votes.
It’s a well kept secret in university boardrooms that, whenever a new president needs to be hired, the board may be bitterly dividied in private but, in an attempt to wallpaper over those differences, the members agree that, in public, there will be a unanimous vote for the good of the institution.
The slight-of-hand is designed, of course, to create the illusion for the unsuspecting public and media that the new hire has the full support of the board. After all, what new president wants the public to know that he or she had only a majority of votes and begins their tenure with a divided board?
Given the fact that this deception happens, it was only natural that, after the 8-0 vote to hire Dr. Samuel Stanley Jr. as the new prez at Michigan State University, some snooping around was warranted.
For the first time since 1985 and for only the second time since 1941, this MSU board went outside the MSU family for a new leader. The board was told in no uncertain terms by the university community to “find a non-Spartan,” given the fact that the last two Spartan presidents, Dr. Lou Anna Simon and John Engler, left an indelible splotch on the university’s already sullied, post-Larry Nassar, nationwide image.
Enter the soon-to-be-former President of Stoney Brook University for the last 10 years, Dr. Stanley.
Was the board under pressure by outside forces to select him?
Was the board hell-bent on picking this guy, even though the campus community wanted no part of him?
Based on the inside skinny from the banks of the Red Cedar, the answers appears to be “no” and “no.”
It also appears that, for the first time, the presidential search committee appointed by the board to screen candidates played a broader role that journeyed way beyond just putting together a list of finalists for the board to ponder, which is the normal drill.
,Not only did the diverse, 19-member committee plow through a ton of resumes and then narrow it down to “less than five,” the committee actually voted on whom it wanted. And it decided 19-zippo on Dr. Stanley, which, in and of itself, was unusual.
Even more unusual, the committee then proceeded to lobby each of the university trustees, strongly suggesting that the board vote “yeah” on the panel’s choice.
The search committee did not have the power to appoint the president, but, based on its internal deliberations, obviously all 19 of them decided to chuck the normal Ivory Tower protocol of making a referral and then fading into the woodwork and shutting up.
And it worked.
One source reports that one of the trustees, Democrat Joel Ferguson, a veteran of countless internal boardroom struggles, attempted to push someone else, but, while such a power play might have worked on previous boards, he was rebuffed by a newer and younger board that had a different idea.
For his part, Mr. Ferguson said Mr. Stanley was his choice.
Nobody talked about all that, but the student member on the search committee came pretty close to confirming that is exactly what transpired.
“The fact that it was a 19-member committee and trustees took a back seat and let the stakeholders deliberate on what was best, I feel the community input was strong.” So says Katherine Krifiotis.
The new non-Spartan moves into the Cowles House for presidents on Aug. 1.