Presidents, come forth

Manuel Esteban has mended fences between the university and community, made faculty and staff feel warm and fuzzy about his leadership, brought the university into the 21st century and done it all with a sense of humor.

With this reputation to follow, Chico State University’s new president had better write poetry and talk about your feelings.

Earlier this week, the first meeting of the committee that will advise the California State University Board of Trustees on Esteban’s successor was held. It’s the only public meeting, as henceforth the application process is confidential until the search is narrowed to two or three finalists, who will field questions from the campus community.

In fact, the committee spent a good chunk of time learning how to respond to inquiries with “evasive answers” that won’t jeopardize the search by making publicity-fearing candidates drop out.

“There will be a rumor behind every tree on this campus,” said Chancellor Charles Reed. Updates will be FedEx-ed to members’ homes to protect the process.

Candidates will be roused through advertisements, networking and coaxing. “We are not looking for people who are looking for jobs,” Reed said. “We are looking for people who already have good jobs.”

That said, Reed added that the trustees—who will take the advisory committee’s recommendations very seriously—are open to “nontraditional” candidates, such as those not already leading a college. They also want to have several minorities and women in the mix.

At the meeting, committee members—including faculty, staff and student representatives—took turns saying what they’d like to see in a president. Besides a clone of Esteban, suggestions included: someone who will keep Chico State on the path it is on, who is comfortable with being in the public eye, who respects the autonomy of the Associated Students, who will recruit and maintain minority students and who is trustworthy, witty and academically strong.

The committee will next meet on Sept. 12, when it will look over a list prepared by the executive search firm of Korn/Ferry International and narrow the field to 10. The final three or four will be subjected to rigorous credit, criminal and DMV background checks before being submitted to the Board of Trustees.

Nine months from now, in January, a new president should be announced.