March 18, 2020
Leadership searches in years past by the University of Florida and the University of South Florida were marred by other cloak-and-dagger tactics to keep the public in the dark.
From the beginning of this process, however, UCF made noise about getting students, faculty and the public involved in the selection. Beverly Seay, the chair of UCF’s Board of Trustees, promised the selection of a new president would be “inclusive, collaborative and transparent…”
Introducing a mystery candidate into the mix 48 hours before picking a president is not our idea of inclusiveness, collaboration or transparency.
We also don’t view prior, non-public meetings between the unidentified candidate and search committee members to be in the interest of transparency, either.
As much as we’d like to have complete faith in the company UCF hired to recruit candidates — Storbeck/Pimentel & Associates — one of the other finalists it had chosen dropped out after the Fort Worth Star-Telegram unearthed allegations that he had mistreated employees.
We’ve heard over and over the reason why universities prefer secret searches — the best candidates may not apply because they don’t want their current employer to know they’re looking around.
But as Pamela Marsh of the First Amendment Foundation pointed out on Tuesday, before Cartwright’s identity was revealed, “If the secret inside candidate doesn’t want his current employer to know he’s applied to UCF, that means — prior to the big ‘reveal’ — no one can talk to his prior employer about his recent on-the-job performance. Most people wouldn’t hire a babysitter for their children without talking to prior employers.”
The reason UCF is looking for a new president is because the last one, Dale Whittaker, got caught up in a spending scandal. The university can’t afford to get this one wrong, and introducing a candidate at the last minute, without time for a full public vetting, seems a sure-fire way to risk something going wrong.