EHU Rector Search Report: October 2014–31 March 2015

EHU Rector Search Report: October 2014–31 March 2015

An ad hoc Search Committee was established by the EHU Governing Board at its regular meeting on 9 September 2014. 

The Search Committee consisted of 5 members, 2 observers, and one technical assistant: Davidson (Chair), Jensen, Lonsdale, Prince, Tarschys;  NCM Manager Mads Meinert and EHU President Anatoli Mikhailov agreed to serve as observers on the Committee. Christine Vivas (American Councils) was appointed Secretary to the Committee.

Two additional stakeholder groups were invited by the committee to take part in key segments of the search process, to report on their assessments and impressions of the candidates, and to participate in discussions with the search committee: those groups included the EHU Senate (represented by the Chair and Deputy Chair) and the EHU Students Union (represented by the elected president as well as by the student delegate to the GB).

Position Announcement. 

A Position Description for the EHU Rector position was drafted, discussed and refined by Search Committee, reviewed by key stakeholder groups, and published (in four languages) in EHU Website on Oct. 15.

The stated deadline for applications: November 21, 2015, so that the application window remained open for a total of 37 days. One late application was received and was also considered by the Search Committee. 

The Candidate Pool.

The total number of responses to the EHU rector position announcement was 19. 

The breakdown of home countries (or countries of current residence) of the 19 applicants was as follows: Belarus—4; Lithuania—1 (+ 2 residents); Norway—1, Pakistan—1; Poland—1, UK—3 (+1 resident), Ukraine—2; USA—6).

Protection of privacy and confidentiality of the search process  
The Search Committee made special efforts at every stage of the process to ensure the confidentiality of the search process and the privacy of candidates, the content of their references, and the assessments that emerged over the course of the process of each candidate’s strengths and weaknesses.  All application materials and letters of inquiry (there was one nomination) were made available through a secure password-protected DropBox site to Committee.

All individuals who participated in the search process, including the chair and vice chair of the Senate, and the two student observers, though not formal voting members of the Search Committee, were provided similar guidelines and the protection of privacy and confidentiality of the process.  Despite these precautions, a good deal of information about the search made its way into the press and social media, in part, due to actions by one or more of the candidates themselves.

The Review Process

Search Committee members were requested to review all candidate materials for suitability and to develop preliminary assessments for each candidate on a scale: “promising”/”not promising”/or “discuss.”  Following a teleconference by the full committee in early December, a total of 10 of the 19 candidates were identified for phone interviews, which were promptly scheduled and conducted in the second week of December.  All candidates had been advised previously that campus interviews would be held December 16-17, in Vilnius. 

A total of 7 of the 10 first-round candidates were invited to campus; three of the seven candidates were internal to EHU, including the Interim Rector, the Vice Rector for Communications/Development, and a senior faculty member in philosophy.  All seven candidates accepted the Search Committee’s invitation to take part in campus interviews. Expenses for travel and overnight accommodations in Vilnius (as needed) were covered by EHU.  

Information about the identities of the 7 visitors was not released until the eve of the visits in order to avoid, to the extent possible, undue press or interference in the campus process by external groups. Media attention to the process was nonetheless extensive and reports appearing in social media and Belarusian press were often riddled with mis-information and unfounded speculation about the candidates themselves and the search process as a whole. Part of the reason for the heightened interest in the search on the part of the Belarusian media was undoubtedly provoked (and perhaps even generated) by the presence among the seven finalists of a former candidate for the presidency of Belarus.  

On December 18, the Search Committee posted a detailed and factual press release informing the community about progress on the search and thanking the more than 120 members of the EHU student body and faculty who took part in the candidate interviews, in particular, the chair of the Senate, Ryhor Miniankou and the elected president of the Union of Students, Dzianis Kuchynski, who organized 7 separate group meetings each over a two-day period.  In addition to meetings with student and faculty groups, all candidates met with the senior administrative team of EHU (the vice rectors and dean of students) and with the full Search Committee.    Interviews were conducted in Belarusian, English or Russian, as convenient for the candidates.  Interviews followed a standard protocol to ensure that comparable information was collected and reviewed for each of the seven candidates and all candidates were given a chance to share their views in any form they chose about their own vision of the future of EHU.  Candidates were also encouraged to pose any questions they had about EHU or the Search to the members of the Search Committee near the end of each personal interview.  

On the basis of the interviews conducted on site in Vilnius in December and the evaluations that were received from students, faculty, administration, and the members of the Search Committee, three of the 7 candidates were invited to submit action plans, based on the 2014 external evaluation of EHU conducted by the European Association of Universities.

The EAU identified a number of areas for potential improvement at EHU related to the administration, curriculum, research base, international engagement, and staffing plans, as well as areas of clear strength and accomplishment.  Candidates were invited to select any three areas of need indicated in the external review and to provide a plan of how they would go about addressing those needs in the coming two to three years. Limits were established for the length of each action plan, and candidates were invited to submit plans in the language of their choice.   

All three candidates elected to take part in the “third-round” review.  Their submissions were translated, as necessary, and circulated to the members of the Search Committee, observing necessary rules of confidentiality.  In the second week of January, the full committee and two observers, then interviewed each of the three finalists in detail about the action plans that they had submitted.   The process provided the committee with valuable information about each candidate’s relative strengths, vision of EHU, and abilities to lay out an original plan of action to address a designated problem area.   Following the three interview-discussions in January, the “action plans” were also made available to the two primary stakeholder group representatives (Senate and Student Union), who reviewed the materials and met with members of the Search Committee in person in Vilnius in late January to share their impressions as well.

Concurrently, the Search Committee solicited detailed and well-focused external references from each of the three finalist candidates.   A total of 14 references were solicited directly from referees to ensure that each had a clear sense of the nature of the position, for which the candidate was under consideration.   References included both written letters and protocols of telephone conversations and all oral interviews of referees were conducted by no fewer than two (more often 3) members of the Search Committee using SKYPE and international conference call formats.  

Finally, the review process also included a personality/ leadership profile online examination that was voluntarily submitted by each of the three finalist candidates.   The proprietary examination is widely used in the corporate and government world in Europe and was recommended to the Search Committee and also paid for by the representative of the Nordic Council of Ministers.   The exam administrator agreed to meet privately with the members of the Search Committee in Vilnius in late January to brief us on the results of the exam and to provide confidential profiles to the Committee for each of the three finalists.   Those profiles are also included in the Drop Box file, and they were taken into consideration by the Committee in the review process. 

Public announcements related to the Search

Public announcements were released by Search Committee through EHU website and on one occasion through the Belarus Digest according to the following schedule.

October 15. Detailed Announcement of Vacancy in 4 languages, also published in Times Supplement, Chronicle of Higher Education, IHE and elsewhere

December 18. Press release on campus visits by 7 candidates (4 languages)

January 26. Extended statements and video interviews on search (5 items: Daniel Tarschys, Anatoli Mikhailov, Dan Davidson, Ryhor Miniankou, Dzianis Kuchynski)

February 12. Search comments and Q&A by GB Member Artiom Anisimov

March 2. Public notification of one-month extension of search timeline

March 21. Greg Prince’s message in Belarus Digest on search

March 24. Brief update on search for Belarus radio.

Week of April 7. Announcement of Search Results (projected)

Conclusions

The Search Committee has made the complete findings of the Search Process to the Members of the Governing Board for their personal review through the confidential Drop Box. The Committee notes that the size of the initial pool of candidates and the number of candidates invited to campus for personal interviews provides an important indication of the quality and depth of the pool and of the group of 7 short-listed candidates.   The review of action plans pointed out notable differences (not so much weaknesses) among the three finalist candidates that are relevant, given the particular set of challenges facing EHU in the short-term, as well as longer-term.  

It was the task of the full Governing Board to make the final determination concerning the ranking of the three finalist candidates, based on the charge/mandate to the new rector.

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