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Presidential Searches: Open Versus Closed?

Presidential Searches: Open Versus Closed?

This question is taken from AGB Search's monthly newsletter, "Securing Leadership," which features two questions—one frequently asked by search committee members and another often posed by candidates. You can subscribe to the newsletter here.

From a search committee: Open or closed search – what’s best for our institution?

You can also learn more about presidential search with Jamie Ferrare and AGB University.  See these videos here.

The debate over open or closed searches has intensified, and boards launching a presidential search must consider the advantages and disadvantages of both. How have past presidential searches been conducted at the institution? What are the expectations of the campus community, and of the board itself? What impact do open or closed searches have on the quality and quantity of the applicant pool? And, importantly for public institutions, what is required by law?

An open search is often preferred by faculty, students and staff. Final candidates are announced. They interact with the campus community, and feedback from those interactions is forwarded to the board for consideration.

In a closed search candidates meet only the search committee, board of trustees, selected administrative personnel and staff. Confidentiality guidelines are strict, and there is no public involvement. Many believe that a closed search allows sitting presidents and other high profile candidates wary of public exposure to explore their interest. However, it places a great deal of the responsibility for diligence on the search committee, board members and search firm. It also requires conversations early in the process to gain buy-in from often-skeptical faculty, students and staff.

An open search, by contrast, usually limits the number of sitting presidents in the pool, but it allows open dialogue and debate and permits candidates to see the institution for themselves and judge their fit with it more realistically. Boards will be wise to understand the strengths and limitations of both open and closed searches before deciding which is best for their institution.

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