Pondering presidents: Campus split on candidates

Sentiment on the Chico State University campus is split between presidential candidates Paul Zingg and Lois Muir.

Some believe Zingg is the thing, while others hope Muir is near. And there is another contingent that thinks California State University trustees should ditch them both and start the search anew.

Zingg, provost at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, impressed audiences with his knowledge of Chico State. University of Montana, Missoula Provost Muir was widely received as the compassionate candidate, the one who as president would talk out budget cuts and other hot button issues from a fresh, “outsider” perspective.

Student government leaders unanimously voted to support Zingg, and the campus newspaper, the Orion, endorsed him as well.

When considering Muir, said Associated Students President Michael Dailey, “they could feel she was a nurturer and very much about collaboration. [But she] really didn’t know anything about our campus and our community.” Her answers were a little vague, and, “We’re really not clear about who she was.”

Zingg, on the other hand, knew a lot, but some thought he came off as almost too polished.

Muir said this week that she is a fast learner, and, “Not working in a particular system does not represent a disadvantage; it is often an advantage.”

Mario Sagastume, the A.S. commissioner of activity fee, said he wasn’t blown away by either candidate. “I was hoping for someone who really wowed me,” he said.

The three statewide academic senators from Chico State have already sent the CSU Board of Trustees letters urging it to leave the search open and give the campus a look at some of the other candidates in the pool, especially those with “presidential experience.”

Even though Manuel Esteban announced his retirement more than a year ago, Chico State did not get the array of candidates promised as the CSU moved to fill other slots first. Two top candidates dropped out late in the process and showed up as San Marcos finalists.

“They should have started the search at a time when we were likely to get the best possible pool of candidates,” said Professor Paul Persons, who signed the letter to the trustees. “It’s unfortunate that we only had the opportunity to look at two people when we should have had four.”

Professor Beau Grosscup, president of California Faculty Association, Chico, said that if forced to choose between the two on the table, personally he feels that “Dr. Muir is a lot more acceptable.” Trained in psychology, Muir is less by-the-book, Grosscup observes, and thus perhaps more likely to be open to discourse with faculty and others. Her lack of pat answers, he said, was refreshing.

“I think it’s pretty clear that Zingg is the chancellor’s candidate,” he said, predicting that, “He’ll be imposed upon us, [and] the chancellor will hide behind the trustee vote.”

Asked later about fears that he might become a yes-man to Chancellor Charles Reed, Zingg said he would not offer “blind obedience.”

“Clearly, if I received an ‘order’ to do something that I deemed not to be in the best interest of my campus, I would want to explain why I felt that way and to seek another approach,” he said.

The candidates will meet with the BOT on Oct. 30, and a decision is expected by mid-November, and maybe much sooner.

Dailey pointed out that no one will know for sure if the selected candidate is a good fit for Chico until he or she takes office. "In a lot of ways it’s kind of a crapshoot."