Gallaudet urged to Move Cautiously in Replacing Ousted President-Designate

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Tue Oct 31 14:02:09 UTC 2006 Tuesday, October 31,

Search Experts Urge Gallaudet U. to Move Cautiously in Replacing Ousted



People with experience in presidential searches for higher-education
institutions said on Monday that after the traumatic events of the last
few weeks at Gallaudet University, culminating in the revocation of the
appointment of the person picked as its next president, the university
should take a breather. "The worst thing would be to jump right in and
start a new presidential search," said Shelly Weiss Storbeck, managing
director and vice president of Edward W. Kelley & Partners, an
executive-search firm.

The various constituents of the campus community should step back, she
said, let tempers cool, and "think about what's good for the institution,"
the country's only university for deaf and hard-of-hearing students. The
question now, she added, is what kind of leader the Board of Trustees
wants as it begins to think about a new replacement for its long-serving
president, I. King Jordan, who is scheduled to step down on December 31.
Last May the board named Jane K. Fernandes, who was then the university's
provost, to assume the presidency in January, but it terminated that
appointment on Sunday after several weeks of intense protest by students
and opposition from faculty members and alumni. Ms. Fernandes remains a
faculty member of Gallaudet, but several observers speculated that she
might opt to take a sabbatical leave to get away for a while from the
highly charged atmosphere on the campus.

"The protests clarified what the campus wants," said Ms. Storbeck,
referring to protesters' calls for a president who, in their eyes, would
be a better speaker for the whole American deaf community and would
consult others more in decision making. "But it's not clear what the board
is looking for," she said. The board's chair, Brenda Jo Brueggemann, would
not speculate on Monday about how it would resume the search, indicating
only that the board would "be meeting again very soon" to begin planning
for the future. Ms.  Brueggemann, an associate professor of English at
Ohio State University and a vocal supporter of Ms. Fernandes, added that
the board would "probably appoint an interim president" as a first step.

Whenever the search is restarted, said Raymond D. Cotton, a lawyer
specializing in contracts and compensation for college presidents, the
board members will have a difficult balancing act to pull off. "They need
to listen more carefully to students and faculty members and take their
feelings into consideration," he said. But the board must retain authority
over the new search, he said, even though students and faculty members may
now feel that they can control it.  The trustees "shouldn't give that
responsibility away to anyone," he counseled.

Gallaudet could be helped by the same executive-search firm that helped it
choose Ms. Fernandes as a finalist for the presidency, but this time it
would work free. Academic Search Consultation Service, which the
university retained last year, when it began to look for someone to
replace Mr. Jordan, is ready to talk about getting back to work "for
expenses only," said Jamie P. Ferrare, the firm's president. Such an
arrangement is common when an executive chosen with the help of a search
firm does not serve out a full year. Mr. Ferrare became head of the
company only in July and was not involved in the earlier search. But like
other experts contacted by The Chronicle, he speculated that the
tumultuous events that ended with Ms. Fernandes's ouster could deter some
new candidates, while encouraging others.

"There may be people out there who may see this as an opportunity, who
want to help heal the situation," he said. "Other people may say, I don't
want to touch that." No matter who is eventually chosen to lead Gallaudet,
the university must still reach agreement on compensation with Ms.
Fernandes. Since she appears to have had her appointment terminated
without cause, said Mr.  Cotton, the university would have to negotiate a
compensation package with her. Typically, he said, that would involve the
payment of at least one year's salary as president. Mr. Jordan received
total compensation of nearly $578,000 in the 2003-4 academic year,
according to the university's tax filings. Given that Ms. Fernandes
appears to have done nothing wrong, added Mr.  Cotton, "the board ought to
be generous with her."


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