UCF Presidential Search Committee discusses third-party firms, interviews, transparency

Photo by Samantha Bequer.

The first meeting of the UCF Presidential Search Committee laid the groundwork for a lengthy future of interviews as the committee looks for UCF President John C. Hitt’s replacement.

The committee focused on the use of third-party search and audit firms, the legalities of transparent public meetings and the need for efficiency.

“When President Hitt was selected, the process took four months, so it can be done, with great success,” UCF Board of Trustees Chairman Marcos Marchena said via a live stream of Monday’s meeting.

The goal is to have the new president selected by the UCF Board of Trustees (BOT) and confirmed by the Florida Board of Governors (BOG) no later than June 30, 2018, Marchena said in a letter to the search committee.

Marchena said he outlined the committee’s responsibility to create a short list of three search firms by Wednesday to give the firms adequate time to explore potential candidates before the search committee’s next meeting on Dec. 4. 

“It’s not hyperbole to say this committee’s work represents one of the most important tasks UCF has ever faced,” Marchena said. “You’re looking for some to stand on the shoulder of a giant, and not only reach for the stars, but actually catch one … no pressure, no pressure at all.”

The motion to use an outside consultant to determine the salary, also known as the compensation package, for the incoming president eventually passed, but not without debate.

Although an external consultant has not been used to determine salaries at UCF in about two years, an internal audit has similar results as an external, UCF Vice President and General Counsel Scott Cole said via the live stream.

The internal audit compares public data such as current pay scale and compensation to other universities in the same way an external team would, Cole said.

Cole assured the committee that the internal team could match any given time frame, but Walsh, chairman of the presidential search committee, voiced concern about conflict and validity.

“There would also be the concern the Human Resources department ultimately reports to the same person being validated, therefore even the most mild conflict might exist, so it might be prudent to look for an outside firm,” Walsh said via the live stream.

Committee members Sydney Kitson and William Yeargan agreed on the use of a third-party firm to approve the salary of the new president, while committee member Michael Manglardi expressed concern about speed and efficiency.

Although Cole said the presidential search would be a high priority for an internal team, members of the committee were divided.

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, a member of the search committee, was still not convinced.

“I just had concerns,” Dyer said via the live stream. “It seems like you had good experience with the [internal team] you were using, and adding time by using an [outside firm] might not be the wisest things to do.”

Cole estimated the outside firm could cost an estimated $30,000, although the firm used is undecided.

The committee must follow the BOG’s process for presidential selections, which require background checks, interviews and an unranked list of recommendations sent to the BOG, according to a BOG presidential search document.

The committee must interview candidates and then recommend three to five finalists for the BOT to interview. This process should be completed by March 2018, Marchena said.

“I want to highlight there is no need to push to narrow [the list] down to three,” Marchena said via the livestream. “If there is a natural break at four, send us four. If you think there is a natural break at five, send us five.”

The President’s Leadership Statement was developed and approved by the BOT in January and includes a high level of integrity, a strong personal and professional background and a commitment to inclusion and diversity.

It outlines the most important presidential leadership characteristics for the BOT, Marchena said.

Marchena promised a transparent search and guaranteed the BOT’s commitment to hiring the right candidate who gains the approval of the UCF community.

“We will hold campus forums to hear from faculty, others in the administration, from staff and from students before those candidates even come to be interviewed by the Board of Trustees,” Marchena said.

Cole also outlined the Sunshine Laws for the committee meetings, which are laws that require all governmental meetings in Florida to be open to the public, according to Statute 286 of the Florida Code.

Cole said any information pertaining to the UCF Presidential Search can only be discussed at the meetings, and public minutes of any meeting can be accessed through the UCF Presidential Search website.

The committee, although not obligated, can allow public comment as well, Cole said.

“We will be transparent and open,” Vice President for Communications and Marketing Grant Heston said via the live stream. “Everything that we do will be available to everyone who wants to see it and comment upon it and participate.”