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UW Board Alters, Moves Ahead With Presidential Search

February 21, 2013

The University of Wyoming Board of Trustees has adjusted its search for a new UW president in order to successfully conclude the current national search.

The board, which originally charged a screening committee with producing a list of five or more finalists, voted Thursday evening to allow the committee to forward the names of fewer than five best-qualified candidates for the position. And the board will withdraw its motion to amend an Albany County District Court ruling in pending litigation with three media organizations, complying with the order to disclose the names of the finalists to the public.

“In a highly competitive environment, we must proceed now with a revised search process or risk jeopardizing the search,” Board of Trustees President Dave Bostrom says. “We can’t afford to lose candidates from the remaining pool based upon the possibility of continued litigation.”

UW’s motion to alter the court ruling in the pending lawsuit was filed in light of an amendment to the Wyoming Public Records Act by the Legislature. The motion is pending before the District Court, which recently heard arguments on the motion. The media organizations have stated they intend to appeal any ruling in the university’s favor or pursue additional litigation.

“We believe the Legislature’s intent in amending the Public Records Act was clear, and that there are strong grounds for the court to alter its initial ruling. We can’t, however, guarantee our ability to honor our promise of confidentiality as long as the matter is still being litigated,” Bostrom says. “Because we must act in a timely manner or risk a failed search, we are withdrawing our motion to alter the court ruling, and we will proceed with a smaller number of finalists who are willing to continue without confidentiality.

“Fortunately, we expect those finalists to be of extremely high caliber, and we’re looking forward to interviewing them to find the best possible person for the job.”

Following President Tom Buchanan’s announcement last fall that he would retire as president in 2013, the Board of Trustees established a three-tiered screening/selection process that included two committees and retained the services of a search consultant. The committees included UW trustees and UW Foundation board members; faculty, staff and students; along with a state legislator, a community college president and representatives of several Wyoming industries.

The initial screening committee reviewed the credentials of the 88 applicants for the position and identified 15 candidates to forward to the second screening committee, which was charged with narrowing the candidate pool to at least five finalists. The original plan called for the entire Board of Trustees to interview each finalist and then select the new president, with a target date of Feb. 27.

The second screening committee has been unable to fulfill its charge as a result of the lawsuit. The media organizations challenged the Board of Trustees’ decision to use a confidential process, under which the identities of all candidates would not be revealed to the public. Following the Albany County District Court ruling that ordered the university to identify the finalists for the job, a number of candidates dropped out, and the second screening committee reported to the board that it could not produce five or more finalists without confidentiality.

The second screening committee is expected to act soon in response to its revised charge. After it forwards the list of finalists to the board, their names will be released to the public. The board will then proceed with interviews and hopes to name a new president close to the original timeline.

“The confidential process yielded a strong, deep pool of applicants, and the list of finalists would have been enhanced if we were able to maintain confidentiality as the Legislature intended,” Bostrom says. “We appreciate the support of the Legislature and the confidence of the university faculty in the process we established. But given the anticipated prolonged timeline for achieving final resolution of the lawsuit, it is in the best interests of the university to move forward without further delay.”

To read UW's motion to withdraw from the litigation, click here.

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