Front-Page Editorial in Kent State Student Newspaper Criticizes ‘Secrecy & Evasion’ of School’s Presidential Search

The Daily Kent Stater is rightfully rousing rabble and raising awareness about the “secrecy and evasion” involved in Kent State University’s recent search for a new president.

In a bold editorial published on the front page of yesterday’s issue, the KSU student newspaper says the recently-concluded process was a “public transparency crisis,” an end-run around the law and “a series of progressively more-head-scratching offenses that won’t go away until the school proves that a quarter-million dollars of public money was spent correctly.” Game on.

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According to DKS news reports, the school was less forthcoming during its search than Matthew Weiner with a “Mad Men” script. The public university has refused to release “any receipts or copies of any invoices that indicate finalists’ names or identifying information” — and some records have apparently already been destroyed. No public forums were held in which students, faculty and staff could interact, ask questions and hear from the finalists directly. Finalists’ identities were kept under wraps at times to the point of Bond-villain-level silliness — “the instructions to the finalists’ limousine drivers contain the flourish of covert operations: ‘Back into garage doors, which will be opened for you on arrival.'”

Meanwhile, the search committee — including some faculty and a pair of student representatives — ain’t talking due to a confidentiality clause. The result, a pair of big questions: How does the KSU community know the right person has been picked to lead them? And, as DKS editors defiantly ask in respect to the search itself, “How the hell do we know how they spent the money?

Separately, a large majority of faculty in the KSU School of Journalism and Mass Communication has signed an open letter similarly repudiating the closed-search craziness. It states, in part:

“As a school committed to instilling in our students a strong appreciation for open government and the right of the press and the public to engage in effective oversight of government agencies, we believe the university’s actions are in contradiction to both those principles and the values embodied in the Ohio Public Records Act. We strongly urge the University to immediately release all records covered by the Act, including those held by the University’s search firm, and to pledge that all future executive searches will be conducted in strict compliance with the Ohio Public Records Act and the Ohio Open Meetings Act and reflect our institutional commitment to transparency.”

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