OPINION | Provost search does not signal change

If there’s one thing that Butler University students, faculty and staff can count on, it’s that during the course of their tenure at this institution, they will experience the thrill and the tease of an administrative search process.

Butler goes through administrators almost as quickly as Parking Enforcement Officer Aaron Chalmers makes his daily parking ticket shake-ups.

In the past three years, we’ve searched for and hired a new president and four new deans.

The most recent hire is Julie Miller, who interim provost Kate Morris announced last week is to serve as the new dean of libraries.

I’ve either personally attended or overseen The Collegian’s covering of each of these searches, and the experience is always identical.

The community’s involvement in the process is always a letdown, and the mini-dramas that ensue are always identically riveting.

The titillating process has started again.

A search committee to find Butler’s next Jamie Comstock has assembled, and in 2013 when it’s over, the Butler community will welcome the new provost to his or her new office in Jordan Hall.

It doesn’t matter if the search committee votes to keep the provost  search open or closed.

The candidate who is hired at the end of this will always be someone’s favorite and someone’s adversary.

If you’re new to Butler and are interested in saving yourself more than a few hours of griping during the next year, here are a few lock-ins about the process.

First, don’t expect to be officially kept abreast of what goes on during upcoming search committee meetings, even if the process is open.

But have no fear. While you’re not going to receive much official communication, you’ll hear about what the committee members think.

It will be around the water cooler, over a Starbucks mocha, or—in my case—at the end of an interview when committee members just can’t help but divulge the details of their latest meeting.

Next—if the search is open—there will be open forums.

I live for these and usually attend them for fun, even if I have no reason to show up.

All of the public forums will have a few rowdy audience members, and all of these people will be the same people who have showed up to forums for the past five administrative search processes.

The tenured folks will ask the questions.

Everyone else will be silent and gripe about it on the way back to their offices.

The debates about each candidate’s qualifications will be the same as they were last year.

There will be lovely questions about important topics: pay equity, the core requirements, the balance between theory and internships, the importance of adapting to new technology.

There will be a lively debate if one of the candidates is lacking a doctoral degree.

Last, the announcement will always be at some random moment, right as students, faculty and staff leave for a school break.

The faculty will hear first in an email from the president.

Someone will break the news to The Collegian.

It will not be the president.

Then it will be over, and the new hire will fit right into Butler’s administration until someone decides to do something that costs too much money or is unpopular with Butler’s usual politicians.

Or some other administrator will step down from her post or have his contract expire, and we’ll be at it again.

Sure, the debates and drama are a thrill, but trust me—this process is formulaic, and if you decide to tune out from next year’s search, you won’t be missing much.


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