Gillman’s confirmation as chancellor follows a three-month summer period during which he served as UCI’s interim chancellor after Michael Drake’s departure to Ohio State University. He came to UCI last June as executive vice chancellor and provost.
Gillman, 55, the first in his family to go to college, extolled the democratic nature of the public university.
“There is no greater force for the advancement of human progress and enlightenment than the modern research university and no more important institution serving our democracy than public research universities,” Gillman said in speech following the Regents’ appointment. “In a heterogeneous, democratic society, the pathways to success must be open to everyone.”
UC President Janet Napolitano announced Gillman as her selection for UCI’s chancellor two weeks prior to his appointment, in early September.
Her selection of Gillman from seven finalists selection ended a five-month national search facilitated by executive search firm Isaacson, Miller. Beyond the finalists, Gillman came out of a pool of 405 applicants. The search committee was comprised of five regents, UC faculty and staff. Two students were also represented on the committee. Nicole Hisatomi, last year’s ASUCI president and the undergraduate representative on the committee has since graduated. Justin Chung, last year’s president of the Associated Graduate Students, said that the search was exhaustive and approved of Gillman’s appointment.
“I think Howard is well-equipped to do an excellent job as chancellor. I’m very happy with the outcome of the search,” Chung said.
Former Chancellor Drake was also delighted to hear about the appointment of his successor.
“President Napolitano could not have made a better choice. I look forward to watching UCI continue to thrive under his leadership,” he said in a statement.
ASUCI President, Reza Zomorrodian also expressed his approval of Gillman’s appointment. For Zomorrodian, the question is how much the new chancellor will pivot inwards and work with students on issues they care about.
“People saw the chancellor’s office as outward facing,” Zomorrodian said, referring to the consensus among the University of California Student Association (UCSA) council of presidents that chancellors were often not the ones that directly dealt with student issues, instead deferring to vice chancellors.
Zomorrodian acknowledged that, traditionally, the role of the chancellor has been that of the booster for the university. Based on his experiences working with Gillman before he was named chancellor, however, Zomorrodian underscored what he perceives as Gillman’s preference for working with students.
“I believe he stands out because of that,” referring to his belief that Gillman will be able to balance commitments to the university as its booster as well as to its students.
Not everyone is convinced, however.
ASUCI Executive Vice President, Sanaa Khan, remained cautious about Gillman’s appointment, pointing to his pay increase right before discussions of tuition increases are set to take place at the November regents meeting.
“I cannot feel confident about a chancellor who would make such a statement while not addressing how his pay raise will feel to students who are facing a tuition increase,” Khan said.
She did admit, albeit cautiously, that the chancellor has taken all the correct initial steps in reaching out to representatives from student government as well as other student groups.
“Only time will tell if this is a deep, legitimate commitment to understanding students’ needs and concerns, rather than a superficial attempt to stir goodwill during the honeymoon period of his first weeks in the position,” Khan said.
“I think how the chancellor’s office frames these meetings will be telling to whether this is a real intention to engage students, even when what they have to say is contrary to the university’s narrative regarding itself.”
When Gillman was appointed as the executive vice chancellor and provost last year, the Irvine Faculty Association raised concerns with issues of diversity while Gillman was Dean of the College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. Professor Tania Modleski wrote in the Chronicle for Higher Education that Gillman’s hiring practices of phoning additional references hurt the hiring of women and other minority faculty.
Gillman’s $485,000 salary will be the third highest of the UC system. Additionally, he will also have an annual car allowance of $8,916. He will reside in the Tierney University House in University Hills, previously occupied by former Chancellors Drake and Ralph Cicerone.