With the academic semester closing and exam week on deck, the Faculty Senate evaluated the search for the next university president Wednesday and returned a decision: “incomplete.”
The Senate passed a resolution on the search at an emergency meeting Wednesday, concluding that a new search should occur.
The resolution stated in part “that the Senate considers this search to be incomplete” and that “the Senate urges the Board of Trustees and the Board of Regents to honor their fiduciary responsibility for the University and to open a new search for the most qualified president of Seton Hall University.”
According to a source in the Faculty Senate, 27 senators were counted and about 20 other faculty members attended.
W. King Mott, the Chair of the Faculty Senate, said following the meeting that the resolution will go in written form to the Provost right away. He was seen entering President’s Hall at 4:37 p.m. Wednesday afternoon.
Mott added that the Faculty Senate serves in an advisory role to the Provost, who will take the resolution to University President Msgr. Robert Sheeran, who in turn will bring it to the Board of Regents.
The lone remaining presidential candidate, Msgr. Stuart Swetland, will be visiting the campus Thursday and Friday. He will hold a presentation open to students at 10 a.m. on Friday in Jubilee Auditorium and will meet the Faculty Senate Thursday afternoon.
“We are not here to deliberate the qualifications of a candidate,” Mott said during the meeting. “We are not here to determine his capacity to serve as a president of the university. We are here to determine if the process to provide a slate of candidates has failed.”
Two candidates were originally provided by the Presidential Search and Screen Committee on April 7, one of which – Fr. Kevin Mackin – withdrew just days before his scheduled campus visit. Mackin will remain as the president of Mount Saint Mary College in Newburgh, NY.
Mott, who also serves on the Presidential Search and Screen Committee, said during the meeting that “the search committee did not feel comfortable moving forward with the visits” of candidates after Mackin backed out. The committee has consulted with the Board of Regents since and, on April 30, announced the visit dates for Swetland.
Debates in the Faculty Senate meeting ranged from the preferred number of presidential candidate finalists for campus visits to whether the process (which originally yielded Mackin and Swetland) worked at all. Some faculty members also expressed concern that one candidate does not offer the campus community much choice in the search.
Rev. Christopher Ciccarino, an assistant professor of biblical studies in the School of Theology, objected to a number of motions from the Senate body during the meeting. He also was part of the discussion as to the language of the resolution, saying, “it may be prudent not to have that (confrontational) language there.”
At least 10 members of the School of Theology and the Immaculate Conception Seminary were present at the meeting.
Joseph LaSala, chair of the Presidential Search and Screen Committee, issued a statement via e-mail on Wednesday evening.
“Having only one final candidate at this point in the search does not invalidate ten months of careful vetting of many candidates in a very deliberative and thorough process,” LaSala said. “At this point, one candidate is coming to campus to be interviewed in a very inclusive process. He will make his case to the campus community and they will have an opportunity to engage with him in a lively discussion.”
LaSala added that “the search committee is continuing to accept applications and evaluate qualified candidates as it has done throughout this search.”
Meanwhile, attendants of the meeting offered some insights into what may happen next.
Anthony Sciglitano, an assistant professor of religious studies, said “we’ll have a president that was searched for or an interim president who was appointed.”
Sheeran is set to step down from the presidency on June 30. Mott said that Sheeran “is not willing to serve in an acting capacity” should the search continue past that date.
In supporting the resolution, Thomas Rzeznik, an assistant professor of history, said “we need a strong statement” and that the emergency meeting was called to determine such.
Peter Ahr, an associate professor of religious studies, cited a March 4 e-mail from LaSala as reference for the timetable of the search and expectation of more than one finalist. That broadcast message from LaSala said, “I anticipate the University will welcome finalists to campus in late March for one full day of interviews with students, faculty, administrators, staff, the priest community and other key Seton Hall constituencies.”
“It is the responsibility of Board of Regents as custodians of this university…to do the best they can,” Ahr said. “And a process that has yielded one choice is not.”
Mott said during the meeting, while staying within the confidentiality of his position as a member, that no further meetings for the Search and Screen Committee have been scheduled.
“The integrity of the search demands that the process continue on all fronts until its conclusion, whatever that conclusion is,” LaSala said in his e-mail statement. “We can’t speculate on what it will be.”
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