This week the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) began its search for a new chancellor of the state system. Former chancellor Frank Brogan announced his retirement this past summer and effectively retired at the beginning of September. Brogan announced his retirement on the heels of the state-wide faculty strike that occurred last October and a report from an outside consulting firm that was critical of Brogan’s leadership and management.
While searching for a new chancellor, former Clarion University president Karen Whitney will serve as the interim chancellor. Whitney retired as Clarion’s president after the 2017 Spring semester, around the same time as Slippery Rock’s former president, Cheryl Norton, announced her retirement. Earlier this year, fellow PASSHE schools Cheyney University and Mansfield University also appointed interim presidents.
As of the writing of this editorial, SRU’s first search for a new president failed, Clarion just started their search after Whitney was named interim chancellor, Mansfield is still currently conducting a national search and Cheyney just recently made the man who had been serving as interim president, Aaron Walton, the new full-time president.
With all the uncertainty in leadership positions around the state system, the question of ‘What should Slippery Rock do?’ needs to be asked. With the preliminary search for a new president of SRU having failed nobody, including SRU’s council of trustees and the state system’s board of governors, seems to know what to do next. There has been a seemingly endless debate about whether to start a new search from the ground up or to continue with the old one.
Following the vote of a failed search at the last council of trustees meeting, the trustees said they were going to ask the state system what their next step should be. This request has appeared to garner little to no help, as there has yet to be a clear statement from the council or the established presidential search committee about what plan is moving forward.
The Rocket staff believes that, due to the uncertainty with the state system’s leadership, SRU’s presidential search process and what other schools are doing to find their own presidents, the council of trustees need to come up with a plan and tell the public what is going to happen. The council has recently made public certain disagreements and allegations they have against each other, through both letters to newspapers and emails to SRU shareholders.
With Cheyney recently hiring their interim president, does that mean that SRU’s interim president, Philip Way, could be the next president? With the state system without a permanent leader, and facing criticism of poor leadership, is it even appropriate for SRU to be looking for a new president, especially since the council of trustees has been looking to the state system for guidance?
At this point, it might make the most sense for Slippery Rock to wait until a new chancellor is named before trying to hire a permanent president. That would most likely mean that Way would have to serve as interim president for an extended period of time, and it is the Rocket staff’s understanding that being interim president disqualifies Way from being SRU’s next president. If this is indeed the case, would it be okay to have Way serve an extended term as interim president?
The Rocket staff does not have answers to any of these questions. Like almost all the other students at SRU, we are very much in the dark about SRU’s presidential search plans and what should or needs to happen moving forward. The council of trustees and the presidential search committee need to consider all of the information and weight their options carefully and come up with a plan on how to move forward, and when they do they need to tell the SRU community what exactly that plan is going to be.