By Rebecca Shurtz
The transition from BYU president Merrill J. Bateman to Cecil O. Samuelson involved prayer and fasting and a unanimous sustaining vote.
Finding the replacement for Bernie Machen, president of the University of Utah, will include committee meetings, advertisements, applications and interviews.
The Utah State Board of Regents announced Oct. 17 that they had chosen 20 committee members who will decide on Machen”s replacement. He will leave the U in December to serve as the University of Florida”s new president.
“Finding a president to follow in Bernie”s footsteps in providing leadership will be no easy task,” Nolan Karras, state board of regents chairman, said in a press release. “I am confident, however, that with the assistance of this capable search committee, it will be accomplished.”
The committee is comprised of members of the board of regents, members of the University of Utah Board of Trustees, community and alumni representatives, and institutional representatives – faculty, staff, and the student body president at the U.
Since the selection process will take anywhere from six months to a year, an interim president will be named until a new president is chosen, said Dave Buhler, associate commissioner for public affairs of Utah System of Higher Education.
“The important thing is finding the right president, so there”s no definite deadline,” Buhler said.
As part of the process, the search committee will conduct public meetings where university faculty, students and community members can give input on the selection criteria. After receiving public input, the committee will develop the criteria and advertise the position nationally.
From the applications received, the committee will select a number of candidates to interview and then recommend several finalists to the Board of Regents. The committee will publicize the names of these finalists. Then the board of regents will interview each finalist prior to selecting the new president.
The names of finalists have not always been open to the public. This will be the fourth time finalists have been publicized, Buhler said.
For the past six years, Joel Campbell, communications professor at BYU, has debated with higher education officials to publicize all of the names of the applicants, not just the finalists.
He said that announcing the finalists is a good compromise because it allows public involvement.
“It”s not just a press fight. It”s not just a media fight. It”s a fight because we believe that the public ought to be involved in the selection process for a state university,” Campbell said. “These positions are often some of the highest paid in the state government and includes some of the largest responsibility.”
Campbell is also the national co-chair of the Freedom of Information Committee for the Society of Professional Journalists.
“We believe that you can get the best quality candidates with public openness and transparency,” he said.
Buhler said he agreed.
“The president of the U is a very prestigious position,” he said. “In this case there”s a huge amount of human interest involved so I think it”s a good thing.”