Daniel Skinner / WKSU
Beverly Warren was elected the new president of Kent State University back in January, but her appointment is still under scrutiny.
Most of the faculty at KSU’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication are protesting the secrecy surrounding the late stages of the university’s search that led to hiring Warren.
The Beacon Journal has been questioning the search for weeks, including why the university will not release the names of other finalists for the job and why it signed a contract that gave a private search firm control over key records.
The paper also has challenged the sketchiness of some expense reports charged by the firm and the decision to shred the notes of some search committee members.
Now the faculty at the journalism school is maintaining in a letter to the search committee and board of trustees that Kent State is violating at least the spirit of open government and public records law that the school teaches.
“I’m the first to admit that following the obligations of public records and public meetings laws creates a lot of work for government agencies,” says Mark Goodman, a journalism law professor. ”But the reason why those laws exist are beyond the difficulty. They really are about ensuring effective public oversight and public buy in to the decisions that are made.”
The university insists it abided by the letter of the law and followed a process that got Kent State the best candidate for president. Spokesman Eric Mansfield says no one has challenged the qualifications of Beverly Warren.
“It’s been more than three months since she was selected by the board of trustees. The cost of the search was reasonable compared to similar searches across the country. Certainly the person who was chosen, Dr. Warren, has the credentials that fit a person that we were looking for. And the invoices and the receipts that were released show the things that you would expect for a presidential search.”
And Mansfield notes the university released a list of its initial candidates for the job and a copy of the contract with the search firm.
“Much has been made of the contract with the search firm. That contract was signed in August and then released to the media in August. And then followed. We didn’t get a lot of questions about it until after the process was concluded with the selection of Dr. Warren.”
But Goodman maintains that the university has created controversy where none needed to be.
“I think one factor that the university has totally failed to take into account is … the cloud that President Warren is going to come in under and I feel terrible for her that she has to experience that through no doing of her own.”
The letter was signed by 28 journalism school faculty, including the former director of the school, Jeff Fruit, and Jan Leach, the former editor of the Beacon Journal.