Search committee to find Grasso’s successor

Jessica Leibman/THE REVIEW
President Dennis Assanis has promised that the search for former Provost Domenico Grasso’s successor will remain transparent, following faculty complaints about search process transparency in the past.


What happens when one of the highest ranking administrators at the university steps down unexpectedly? A search committee, a team commonly used to fill major administrative positions, will be used to replace former Provost Domenico Grasso’s position.

Shortly after President Dennis Assanis announced Grasso’s stepping down, UDaily announced on Sept. 22nd that a search committee would be established to help find the university’s next provost. Former chair of the university’s Department of Biological Sciences Robin Morgan has been appointed as interim provost in the meantime.

Because there are not often openings for top administrative positions like provost on such short notice, not much is known about how search committees function. However, Professor Martha Buell, a professor in the College of Education and Human Development, was able to provide some insight. Buell also serves as the current president of the Faculty Senate.

According to Buell, when search committees are set up, the university hires search firms that act as headhunters and help the university create a list of potential candidates for open positions. Within their network of faculty members at various colleges and universities around the world, the firm will then approach people they see fit as potential candidates for the job.

Potential candidates though, are unlikely be actively seeking open provost positions, as many of them are currently filling other roles at different colleges and universities.

“The person who will be our provost in the future is probably not looking for a job,” Buell said.

One less obvious detail is that anyone that would even be considered to be a provost likely has an established living situation wherever they are. Most candidates will have a spouse who may or may not have a job of their own, and many will have one or more children who are already set up in schools.

Buell said, “They wouldn’t be ready to be a provost if they didn’t have a whole operation running someplace else.”

She said that the search firm will help the candidate with their move away from their current hometown. The firm, or somebody referred by the firm, helps the hire to sell their home, buy or rent a new home, find new schools for children and help their spouses find a new job if any or all of those things are necessary.

Grasso and Assanis filled the most recent major administrative vacancies. The searches for Grasso and Assanis took roughly six months and a year, respectively, according to Alan Fox, a professor in the Department of Philosophy and the secretary of the Faculty Senate. Fox reflected on the two previous searches and the faculty frustration with them.

“The thing people resented about those processes was the lack of transparency… We didn’t know anything about anything.”

The Faculty Senate passed several resolutions objecting to the lack of transparency in the search for Assanis at the time.

According to Fox, this lack of transparency damages the person selected most, as people end up distrustful of the process that selected them.

Fox is excited about Assanis’ promise of transparency in the current search for Grasso’s replacement, saying he would like to know who is being considered “by the time [they] get to the top three.”

Beyond that, he said he would like to see the department chairs, interest groups, as well as the director of the Honors Program to have an input on the search committee.

Another major difficulty in the search process includes finding someone that is a perfect fit for the university. Buell compared it to different “weight categories” in a sport like wrestling or boxing: a massive institution with something around 50,000 students needs a different type of provost than an institution with 1,500 students. The university has just under 20,000 students.

Natalie Criscenzo, president of the Student Government Association (SGA), would like the new provost to be in constant contact with SGA so they can be aware of any student concerns that may arise.

“Since the provost serves as the chief academic officer, their reach covers all academics as well as student life,” Criscenzo said. “Since many of the concerns brought to SGA are regarding the different realms of student life, it’s extraordinarily important to us that the provost is willing to not only hear what the students want to see on campus, but is proactive in making these changes.”

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