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Board chair speaks on presidential search process

Feb. 26, 2009

Robert Simmonds, the chair of Memorial's Board of Regents, held a news conference on Thursday, Feb. 26, to provide an update on the presidential search process.

Read the statement below.

Statement by Robert Simmonds, Chairman, Board of Regents

Good morning. Thank you for coming out.

My name is Bob Simmonds and I’m the chair of Memorial University’s Board of Regents. Today I want to update you, and through you the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, on the search for a new president of Memorial University.

As you know I was appointed chair of the Board of Regents last fall. Since that time I have met with all the senior officials at the university on many occasions. I have also met directly with the university’s Senate.  I’ve also met with government officials, including the Premier and the Minister of Education, as I orientated myself to my new role.

To start, I want to be perfectly clear that this news conference is not about what happened in the past with the presidential search. I wasn’t on the Board of Regents for that process and I’m in no position to comment on what happened there. What I want to outline for you is how we intend to move forward with a new search, which I will lead as chair of the Board of Regents and as chair of a newly constituted Presidential Search Committee.

The position of president of Memorial University of Newfoundland is one of the most important roles in this province.  Memorial has been blessed with great leaders through its accomplished history. The challenge to me and to the Search Committee that I will chair is to ensure that the continuum of visionary leadership is maintained.

The process we will follow in finding a new president of Memorial University will be open, transparent and accountable, while maintaining the necessary confidentiality of potential candidates. Our work will be guided by and in compliance with the letter, spirit and intent of the Memorial University Act.

The Search Committee, the membership of which is subject to final Board approval, will be composed of 12 members selected from among the following groups: the Board of Regents, faculty, students, academic and administrative deans and directors, and one member of the public-at-large.

The Committee will provide regular public updates on the search process and progress, while maintaining the complete confidentiality of internal Committee discussions as well as the names of individuals considered as potential candidates.

The Presidential Search Committee will be advised by Janet Wright and Associates, the premier Canadian executive search firm that focuses on identifying senior-level leaders in the public-sector world of universities, hospitals and civic institutions:  Over the years, its consultants have successfully conducted over 80 searches for presidents of Canadian universities in every province, with the exception of PEI.  Janet Wright, herself, and her colleague, Jim Lundy, will be the two consultants working with Memorial’s Presidential Search Committee.

Let’s now take a moment to outline the process we will follow and the expected time lines. In the best practices, these searches have four phases and Memorial will be following that schedule:

Phase 1 - Search Preparations

·         The Search Committee will conduct pre-search consultations with various individuals and groups at Memorial University.

·         The Search Committee will finalize a presidential “position profile”.

·         Following this, advertisements will be placed in Canada and abroad.

Phase 2 - Recruitment of Candidates

·         The Search Committee will conduct widespread recruitment activities.

·         There will be the development of a preliminary candidate list, which will come as a result of applications, nominations and other direct-recruitment activities.

·         There will be reference enquiries conducted and a reduction to a shorter list.

·         Following that there will be confidential candidate discussions, as required.

Phase 3 - Evaluation Process

·         The Search Committee will develop a short list of candidates that it wishes to interview.

·         The Search Committee will review the results of further detailed reference enquiries and plan interview sessions.

·         Short-list interviews will be conducted by the Search Committee.

Phase 4 – Decision [Confidentiality]·         The Search Committee will decide on its preferred candidate.

·         Discussions with the candidate will be conducted, followed by provisional acceptance of the offer.

·         The recommendation will be presented to the Board of Regents.

·         At this stage, the process is explicitly guided by the Memorial University Act, and I will quote directly from Section 51 of the Act which reads: “The president of the university will be appointed by the Board in consultation with the Senate and with the approval of the Lieutenant-governor in council.”

In terms of time lines, university presidential searches both in Canada and abroad, normally take between six and 10 months to complete - that is, from the start of the search until the name of the successful candidate is made public.  There may also be some lag time required from when that name is made public to when the successful candidate is available to take up the position of president of Memorial University.

Thank you and I’ll now take your questions.