A search halted, not over

Sometimes searches to fill open positions don’t go as originally planned. And that’s the case for the University as it completed its quest to find its 11th president.

Since June, the University’s Presidential Search Committee had been working to find a new permanent replacement for former President Sidney Ribeau. But all along, they had one wishful candidate in mind.

The day Carol Cartwright was announced interim president in June, Board of Trustees member Bill Primrose congratulated her and then asked her a question.

“I asked her if she would consider taking the position as president if the search was unsuccessful,” said Primrose, who also headed the search committee.

Cartwright didn’t humor Primrose in the slightest, simply stating, “no.”

So the committee met regularly, drafted a presidential profile and hired the search firm Witt/Kieffer to find the best candidate.

Board of Trustees Chair John Harbal said the search firm Witt/Kieffer has been paid nearly $117,000 to date. He said the firm had completed all on-site consultations, visits and interviews, and that the committee would have reviewed the applicants sometime this month.

And although the search committee was suspended when Cartwright accepted the position of president on Jan. 6, Primrose believes the progress made in the search is not progress wasted.

“It’s not like the search is done, it’s just been postponed a year and a half,” he said.

Harbal said the search committee “didn’t take their eye off the ball,” and that Cartwright accepting the president position is not a result of a failed search, but rather a change in circumstances.

“From the time the search committee was established in June to the time Dr. Cartwright arrived on campus, any reasonable person would say a lot has changed,” he said, noting the economy, the state budget, decreasing enrollment and the resignation of Provost Shirley Baugher.

In a Jan. 6 press conference following Cartwright’s presidential announcement, Cartwright noted the provost’s resignation as a tipping point and call to public service.

The Board of Trustees approved Cartwright as president with a 6-2 vote. The two dissenting trustees – Fran Voll and David Levey – said they don’t doubt Cartwright is a good fit for the job, but would have liked to see what candidates turned up in the search.

“The process had started, we were into it, and I thought we should have played the cards out,” Voll said. “And that wouldn’t have meant [Cartwright] wouldn’t have been one of the people. … But I would have been most interested to see who came out of the search.”

Like Voll, Levey said the search committee should have finished their purpose.

“Carol Cartwright is a skilled professional administrator that I think has done a phenomenal job at Bowling Green,” Levey said. “She was a caretaker; she was just here for a year … As a new board member I just felt that [the search] should continue, and it has nothing to do with Carol Cartwright. The rest of the board didn’t feel that way.”

Dick Edwards, former University administrator and the community representative on the search committee, said the circumstances that swayed Cartwright and ultimately suspended the search were unpredictable.

“It could of gone some other different way,” he said. “I do think it was money well spent, well invested. We were dealing with one of the best search firms in the country. And I hope if and when they get back into that process, this will help in the presidential search process.”

Harbal said the next presidential search committee to replace Cartwright will likely resemble the search committee created to find a permanent replacement for Ribeau, which consisted of several trustees, several faculty, the dean of students, one classified staff member, the Undergraduate Student Government president, the Gradate Student Senate president, one Alumni Board member, one BGSU Foundation Board member and one community representative.

President Cartwright’s term ends June 20, 2011.