Chancellor Search Forum

The search for UC Irvine’s next chancellor continued last week with a series of open forums intended to understand what members of the school would like to see in Drake’s successor.

Drawing a little over a dozen members of UCI staff, faculty and students, one of the public forums took place on campus in Social Sciences Lab 270.
Discussion was facilitated by Simon Cole, a professor of social ecology and chair of the faculty subcommittee, and David Bellshaw, a representative from the leadership recruitment firm Isaacson, Miller.
The faculty subcommittee looks at every single candidate before presenting their selections to the full subcommittee for final deliberations. Isaacson, Miller is a national executive search firm that has assisted the UC in appointing several candidates, including President Janet Napolitano.
“Think about if your best friend was chancellor,” Billshaw said. “What’s the low-hanging fruit and what are the third-rail issues that will become problems if they aren’t addressed?”
Sanaa Khan, ASUCI executive vice president-elect, brought up the issue of campus climate.
When asked for specific incidents by Dwaine Duckett, vice president of system-wide human resources for the UC Office of the President, Khan reflected on the language put forth by a staff member from the Office of Admissions, saying that campus animosity, reflected by racist, sexist and homophobic incidents, keeps UCI from continuing to be a good fit for incoming students.
Without specifying which initiatives, Khan mentioned that programs set forth to address campus climate issues aren’t accomplishing their goals.
She also echoed questions that students made during a closed session last month with President Napolitano regarding an advocate for mental health counseling services.
Lisa Roetzel, associate director of the Campus-wide Honors Program, noted that the program is only able to maintain its current level of service, but is finding difficulty in dedicating staff time to developing new initiatives due to budget cuts and understaffing. Her ideal chancellor would also be someone who developed an endowment for undergraduate scholarships that reflected the size and scope of the university.
“It’d be nice to focus on people and really offer some serious funding for students,” Roetzel said, citing early endowment efforts to fund the construction of new buildings.
A senior member of the social ecology department who wished to remain anonymous wanted the next chancellor to be someone who believed in community engagement through service-learning.
She cited the work force development priorities President Napolitano has put forth and emphasized that an ideal candidate would have not just merely studied a community, but actually participated in civic-based engagement and provided solutions to a community. Her ideal candidate is someone who served on an engagement committee on the academic senate level.
When asked by Tim Bradley, a member of the faculty subcommittee, how UCI has been doing in recent years in terms of community engagement, she said efforts have been fair but cited recent setbacks such as the dissolution of the Center for Service in Action due to budget cuts.
Throughout the 80-minute forum, Bellshaw urged members of the public to approach the search as if they had a magic wand and would be able to conjure the perfect candidate. Bradley echoed this sentiment, assuring members to put forth concerns, even if they were provocative.
Billshaw addressed the problematic nature of having who he referred to as “bald, white men” in the top echelons of administration. He urged the members of the forum to submit Latin@, African-American, Asian-American and Native American candidates. Despite a Native American candidate being something that the search firm is putting effort into pursuing, Billshaw noted the scarcity of PhD-level candidates from which to choose.
Miguel Olvera not only wanted the next chancellor to be a queer woman of color, but for them to not merely be a figurehead who fulfilled a diversity requirement.
“We don’t want them to be tokenized people of color. We want them to reflect marginalized communities and listen to us,” Olvera said. The first-year Spanish major emphasized the importance of having a chancellor who is transparent, accessible and willing to listen to student concerns. Furthermore, Olvera also noted the lack of top-tier Asian-American administrators at UCI and a desire for the next chancellor to reflect UCI’s large Asian-American population.
“We just don’t want someone who is an extension of power from above,” Olvera said.
Two other sessions took place in the Medical School and Medical Center, respectively. Billshaw urged participants to submit names via email to in order to widen the applicant pool. For this position, Billshaw said that approximately 350 to 400 candidates will populate pool. At this level, most of the candidates are not looking for jobs and will come out of research positions and nominations both inside and outside of the UC system.
President Napolitano will make the final decision regarding the chancellor selection, with an appointment projected before fall quarter begins. According to Billshaw, if there isn’t a critical mass of candidates, the search might take longer. Although this might extend the search, and the time UCI spends with Interim Chancellor Howard Gillman, Billshaw asserted that a failed search is not one that takes too long, but one that results in the wrong chancellor.