Dear UCF Presidential Search Committee,
I am writing this public letter to express my concerns about the state of the presidential search. I want to start by stating I fully appreciate the tremendous time and effort that has gone into the process thus far. I understand that this is a difficult task and I am sure you have been experiencing a number of stressors.
Nonetheless, the current state of the presidential search makes it problematic for any decision being made. I am concerned with the way the process has unfolded as well as with the fact that it has continued unabated during an international crisis. With regard to the process, it has been rushed and controversial, with Dr. Vistasp Karbhari withdrawing after problems at his own university were brought to light. The fact that he was even in consideration is troubling.
When the university community learned that there was a third “mystery candidate,” that suggested a significant lack of transparency. Then, when it was announced that the decision process would continue as planned, even though there is an international emergency in the COVID-19 pandemic, this only added to our concerns. Indeed, many in the university community believe the committee thinks it is more important to proceed as planned than it is to allow for any substantive interactions by faculty and students with Dr. Cartwright. Members of the university are dealing with a pandemic and it is truly unreasonable to expect that they will be able to substantively weigh in on a candidate coming out of nowhere.
Because of this, I started a petition to request the decision be delayed. That petition is only three days old but already has over 200 signatures. Many have also added personal comments of concern. And, now that Dr. David Brenner withdrew his application, the entire process is called even further into question. The convergence of these factors means that, should the committee go forward with their decisions, UCF’s new president will be in a position forever mired in controversy. As you well know, this is not at all an outcome our university needs at this time.
In short, the University of Central Florida is facing its most significant leadership decision in decades. We need a president with the intellect to lead a large and diverse university and the courage to be able to stand up to an adversarial state government. We also currently have numerous interim leaders in high-level positions. Because of this, we need a president who is capable of identifying those with the competence to fill these very important positions. This is an incredibly complex set of responsibilities and each will face numerous challenges.
We do not want a president whose hiring has been mired in controversy by a problematic search process. We do not want a president who does not have the respect of faculty or students because they may feel that their input has not been sought.
The reality is that there is little harm in delaying the search process and engaging in a more thorough, open, and viable search and recruitment campaign. The cost of not doing so far exceeds any benefit of a hasty decision process.
Furthermore, there is a very real chance that a poor decision, made in haste, would have cascading problems for years to come. With this petition, the signatories urge the committee to delay the search process for the foreseeable future.
I do not write this letter with ease. But after being with UCF for over two decades, and witnessing multiple problems with new leadership and interim leadership these past two years, I believe the identification of a capable and competent president who has been fully vetted by a search process that included faculty and students, is what is needed to ensure we return to our trajectory of prominence.
I, along with the signatories, hope you agree and will not hastily move forward with any decisions.