Dennis Hampton’s retirement as executive director of the Associated Students of UC Irvine last spring left a vacancy in the student government that has yet to be filled. ASUCI hoped to find a director by this spring but a recent decision by Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Manuel Gomez to reopen the selection process to new applicants will likely mean even more waiting.
A committee consisting of five administrators and the five members of ASUCI’s Executive Cabinet was formed in late fall to screen candidates in a nationwide search for Hampton’s replacement.
After reviewing written applications and conducting telephone and in-person interviews, the committee eventually pared the pool of about 75 applicants to just four: Hemlata Jhaveri, area coordinator of university housing services at Illinois State University; Morolake Laosebikan-Buggs, associate director of student government at Tulane University; Fred Lipscomb, director of Campus Village Housing at UCI; and Lance MacLean, associate executive director of ASUCI.
The council was asked by Gomez to forward three unranked candidates for his approval, according to Adam Boothby, ASUCI vice president of student services, but was only able to provide Gomez with two.
The two candidates submitted to Gomez for consideration were Laosebikan-Buggs and MacLean.
Then, as Boothby explained, ‘Apparently, some time between the time those two were sent and the time when the announcement was made, [Laosebikan-Buggs] dropped out of the race, leaving MacLean as the only remaining candidate that the council deemed capable of fulfilling the duties of the executive director.’
MacLean had long been a favorite among ASUCI’s executive cabinet, having served as associate executive director for seven years.
To the disappointment of ASUCI executives, after finding himself left with only one candidate, Gomez did not immediately appoint MacLean to the position, on the basis that there were not enough applicants with whom to compare him.
Gomez has now reopened the selection process to applicants who were not among the initial group. Of the original applicants, only MacLean is still eligible for consideration. The selection committee must now choose at least two candidates from the new batch of applicants to whom MacLean can be compared.
Leslie Millerd, communications director of student affairs and co-chair of the selection committee, explained the current status of the search.
‘The search is not moving forward because of a withering of the candidate pool,’ Millerd said. ‘There is one candidate remaining in the pool at this time, which is not enough for Gomez to compare and contrast for making an appointment. Therefore, the search is still open with a recent call for additional candidates.’
Gomez’s recent move has irked some ASUCI executives, some of whom pointed out that MacLean had already been compared against scores of other candidates in the initial selection process. To them, this action seems like just one of a series of decisions intended to circumvent the will of ASUCI in the selection process.
‘Speculation has surrounded the issue of why Student Affairs has been reluctant to appoint ASUCI’s highest-ranking staff member to the interim director position,’ Enriquez said. ‘Student Affairs has attempted to appoint staff members outside of ASUCI to the interim executive director position, but students have spoken against this in the interest of stability.’
Boothby said that the recent decision may be part of a long-term attempt to undermine the independence of ASUCI.
‘Personally, I feel as though the administration is trying to taint the entire process,’ Boothby said. ‘The administration, in my opinion, is trying to [hire] an individual that will begin to dissolve the student government autonomy that we have worked for so many years to build up.’
Millerd said that Gomez’s true motives are far less nefarious. Though she declined to comment on MacLean specifically, she said that the decision was made in response to a decrease in the size of the group of candidates, and for no other reason.
‘It is not appropriate to comment on any individual candidate and I will not be doing so,’ Millerd said. ‘It is unfortunate, however not unique to this search, when conducting a national search to find a withering of the candidate pool.’
Millerd also said that ‘the candidates who are still in the pool are still in the pool,’ presumably indicating that MacLean is still a viable contender for the position.
Enriquez attributed the recent development to a fundamental difference in philosophies between ASUCI and Student Affairs.
‘The core of ASUCI’s mission is for students to become a part of ASUCI and to do what they think is right for other students,’ Enriquez said. ‘No staff member of campus has the authority to direct any ASUCI-elected member to follow a set plan or set agenda.
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