Spencer Stuart, the executive search firm tasked with finding applicants for the ninth president of Ithaca College, met with members of the campus community April 19. Consultants invited members of the community to participate in informational and feedback sessions; however, some of the open sessions had a low student turnout.
Ainsley Milner and Mary Gorman, two consultants from Spencer Stuart, held 16 sessions from 7:30 a.m. until 6 p.m. that consisted of both open and closed meetings with students, faculty, staff and campus and local community leaders, including the Student Government Association, the Faculty Council, the Council on Diversity and Inclusion, and the administration.
“It’s a full day, and this is very much within what we do for this type of search,” Milner said. “We’re talking to all different kinds of constituencies on campus to sort of really get our arms around the climate, the sentiments and deeply understand the culture and community.”
Only one student attended the open session from 1:10–2 p.m. in the Taughannock Falls Meeting Room. Another open session, held from 3:20–4 p.m. in Clark Lounge, had no attendees. Milner said this was expected with the student groups.
One session, held at 4 p.m. in Clark Lounge, was open to all three groups — faculty, staff and students — but only one faculty member attended the session.
In response to one student’s attending any of the open sessions, SGA President Dominick Recckio said that after the events leading up to President Tom Rochon’s resignation, many students have lost faith in the administration.
“They think ‘Oh, here’s this administration that doesn’t know how to help us, and look they’ve brought in this outside source. How are they going to help us?’” Recckio said.
He also said students said they were unwilling to go because they were busy with schoolwork.
“I would love to see someone break down what it is students are doing that makes them so busy,” Recckio said. “That needs to be explored because I think it’s hurting this college so much, and no one’s willing to tackle it.”
Recckio said he begged senators to attend the open sessions at the April 18 SGA meeting, saying it is their obligation as representatives of the student body to stay involved in the presidential search process. He said the absence of senators at the open sessions is due to a lack of consistent expectations of the Senate, most of whose members were only inducted at the start of the semester.
“We lose senators, and we gain senators all the time,” he said. “Maybe we can formalize that process and move forward.”
Milner said the feedback shared within these sessions, including the open sessions, was confidential, but she said the outcome of the sessions was positive and productive.
“We’re certainly very engaged with all the groups we’ve met with,” Milner said. “Folks love this place and I think are really looking forward to its continued flourishing.”
Meeting with different campus community members is the first step in the presidential search process. Milner said there is no set timeline yet, which is to be determined by the search committee. According to the presidential search website, there is no timeline for after April.
“We’re still very much in the infancy of this search,” Milner said.
Gorman said the consultants were going to report on “themes” garnered at the meetings.
“We’re going to take all this information and make a position specification out of it,” Gorman said. “We want to report on what’s going on in people’s minds and what people’s ambitions are.”
Milner said the topic of diversity and inclusion was brought up in the session conversations. She said she is unsure how the protests from the Fall 2015 semester will affect the presidential search.
The consultants declined to any further comment about the nature of what they are looking for in applicants or specific details of the search process.
Staff Writer Justin Henry contributed reporting to this article.