At the end of August, Ithaca College President Shirley M. Collado will be stepping down as president and assuming the role of advisor to the interim president and the Ithaca College Board of Trustees.
In its message to the campus community, the board of trustees said it would take the academic year to decide the best path for finding a new president. For the sake of the college community’s strained relationship with the administration and the board of trustees, it is necessary that the search for the next president of the college be transparent.
An open search allows the faculty, students, staff and alumni to have an opinion on who their next president will be. The candidates are reviewed and evaluated publicly — they travel to campus and present their vision to the college community. Understandably, there are some complexities that may make visiting the college difficult, especially in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nonetheless, allowing students and faculty to make their own educated decisions on the next president based on their previous endeavors and goals for the college will heal the community.
History will continue to repeat itself if the board of trustees and the administration refuse to acknowledge the extent of the damage that needs repair. Last academic year, tensions between the SLT and members of the campus community ran high. Protests against the Academic Program Prioritization took place throughout the year, some of which directly called out Collado for a lack of transparency surrounding the college’s finances. Holding an open and transparent search can serve as a start to repairing this fraught relationship.
Following former president Tom Rochon’s resignation, the college announced the members for the search committee for the new president and began an open search for its new president. Not long after, it went back on its promise and the search was closed. By 2017, Collado was appointed as the next president.
If the search for Collado had been open, the campus community would have been made aware of Collado’s personal and professional history. On paper, Collado was the perfect candidate to progress the college, but in the span of her short presidency, she failed to properly address the blatant racism on campus and cut hundreds of faculty and staff members amid a global pandemic.
There is this universal understanding amongst those in higher education that while the limelight is on education and the career path of students, it will be shadowed by the business and politics of higher education that are unavoidable.
To choose a closed search would be a detriment for the future relationship between the next president and the student body. If the board chooses to keep the search closed it will only further alienate the entirety of the administration from the rest of the college community.