As the Search Begins, a Need for "Speed and Efficiency"

The UW Board of Regents started its search for the 29th president of the University of Washington Nov. 5, when Board President Jerry Grinstein announced that he hopes to have a 15-member search committee in place by Dec. 1.

Grinstein told the regents that he wanted a group that would be representative of the UW community. He said he will ask the ASUW, GPSS, Faculty Senate and UW Alumni Association to each provide three nominees to the panel, and that the regents intend to select one from each list.

"There is a need for speed and efficiency," Grinstein said. He hoped that a representative from the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges could give the regents a briefing on presidential searches, and he said it might be a good idea to invite a panel of curent or retired presidents from research univerisities to speak to the regents. Both meetings would be open to the public.

The UW search takes place while several other flagship institutions are also in the hunt for a new leader. Three Big Ten research universities-Iowa, Minnesota and Indiana-are looking for new presidents, as is Boston University. The average tenure of a university president at a major institution is less than six years, according to the American Council on Education.

For 2001-02, research drew more than $800 million and private giving attracted $239 million.

Salaries are also going to be a factor. During its six-month search, Rutgers surveyed top public universities and found that the average presidential salary was $576,570 a year. Recent searches at Michigan, Tennessee and Arizona ended with annual salaries ranging from $520,00 to $734,000. McCormick was making $295,000 at the UW.

While many top institutions choose presidents from within academe, it is not unusual to have leaders come from other vocations. Harvard's current president, Lawrence Summers, was secretary of the treasury in the Clinton Administration. In 2001, the University of Kentucky hired Lee T. Todd Jr., a former senior vice president at Lotus Development. The head of the University of Oklahoma is former U.S. Senator David L. Boren.

According to the American Council on Education, the average university presidential search takes three to 10 months, though if the target is a sitting president at another institution, it can take longer. It took Harvard nine months to hire Summers and McCormick was hired at the end of a six-month search at Rutgers.

The effort to replace former UW President William P. Gerberding took 14 months. According to press reports, at one point in that search all three finalists withdrew from consideration and the process had to start over.

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