Faculty: ‘No also-rans for president’

The California State University has decided to hold off on the search for a replacement for Chico State President Manuel Esteban, a move that has annoyed local faculty members who fear they’ll be stuck with the leftovers from searches at other campuses.

Chico State’s Academic Senate voted unanimously Sept. 24 to pass a just-introduced resolution urging the CSU Board of Trustees to rethink its decision to get the CSU Sacramento and Cal Poly Pomona searches “well underway” before even starting on Chico. That could mean March 2003, with a new president starting as late as September or October, more than a year after Esteban announced he would be retiring at the end of this academic year.

“I really think that is punishing us for our success and at the same time threatening our very success,” said Professor Kathy Kaiser. “We are as valuable as either one of these other two institutions. I would like us to be in the front of the line where we started and not be waiting for the leftovers of two other searches.”

CSU Spokesperson Colleen Bentley-Adler said in a telephone interview that Chico won’t have any less of an opportunity than Sacramento or Pomona. “It makes perfect sense to wait,” she said. “Chico is a smaller, residential campus, so you’re going to attract different people, but there’s bound to be some overlap.” Bentley-Adler said time is not being wasted. Since Esteban announced his retirement so far ahead of time, “this lets the entire educational community across the country be on notice that there’s a job out there.”

Professor Paul Persons, who introduced the resolution asking for hiring to take place by June 2003, said the best time to find a president is from July through October, and a much different pool—fewer sitting presidents, for example—would come forward in March. “[We need] the best opportunity to pick the best president possible for this campus,” he said. “I don’t believe waiting until March is going to do that.”

Esteban himself, speaking carefully, said he understands where the trustees are coming from. Volunteer board members must sit on each committee, and Chancellor Charles Reed wants to be involved as well. He takes the delay as a compliment to Chico State: The campus runs so smoothly that “I could be gone and nothing would happen.”

“You are going to get good applicants because it’s a good campus,” he added.

Within the CSU’s search committee is an “advisory committee” that includes representatives from the campus and community, but they can’t vote. At the Sept. 24 Associated Students Governmental Affairs Committee meeting, A.S. President Jimmy Reed showed off his “rejection letter” from the CSU Board of Trustees. He had asked to serve as a student representative to the voting committee, but the trustees said “no” and pointed out that as president he’s automatically on the advisory one.

The Academic Senate isn’t twiddling its thumbs until March. Faculty members will vote by Oct. 15 to appoint two educators to the advisory committee.