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Kent State journalism faculty urge release of presidential search documents

By Mike Sever | Staff Writer Published: April 22, 2014 4:00 AM
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Faculty of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Kent State University are urging the university to release all records covered by the state's public records law from its search for a new president.

Some two dozen faculty, a majority of the school's staff, sent a resolution Monday to university trustees, members of the search committee, and others objecting to how the university has handled the release of records pertaining to the search for a successor to President Lester Lefton. They also objected to the closed process of the search itself.

"As a school committed to instilling in our students a strong appreciation for open government and the right of the press and the public to engage in effective oversight of government agencies, we believe the university's actions are in contradiction to both those principles and the values embodied in the Ohio Public Records Act," the resolution said.

The university has not released the names of candidates it considered before naming Beverly Warren, provost at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Va. to the post in January.

Eric Mansfield, executive director for media relations for Kent State, said the university released more than 400 pages of records at the request of the media.

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But other records, including the names of candidates, were held by Storbeck Pimental and Associates, a Media, Pa. search firm hired by Kent State.

The Akron Beacon Journal has been seeking records on the candidates and how the tax-supported university spent $250,000 on the search.

Mansfield said the university has released more than 400 pages of public records, "including the contract with the search firm and applications of 20 people who applied for the job and receipts from the search process."

"We've released a lot of materials. I think its been misrepresented in some news articles that we haven't," he said.

Mansfield said the university administration's focus now is on the transition from Lefton to Warren.

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The resolution was signed by 24 current and four retired members of the journalism school, urging the university to immediately release all records covered by the Ohio Public Records Act, including records held by the search firm hired to help find candidates.

Faculty also asked the university leadership to pledge that all future executive searches "will be conducted in strict compliance with the Ohio Public Records Act and the Ohio Open Meetings Act and reflect our institutional commitment to transparency."

Jan Leach, Journalism Sequence Chair within the school, said she does not think the issue is going to die down anytime soon.

"Each new story generates more discussion among faculty. People started to feel as if they needed to take a stand," which resulted in the resolution, Leach said.

She said a member of the Faculty Senate has invited the signers to speak when it meets May 12. She said she hoped the Faculty Senate would take a stand.

"I get why people wouldn't want their name known because of potential repercussions by their current employer, but this is a public institution governed by the state of Ohio," Leach said.

Contact this reporter at 330-298-1125 or msever@recordpub.com

Facebook: Mike Sever, Record-Courier

Twitter: @MikeSever_RC

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d_p Apr 22, 2014 8:01 AM

"...Public Institution...." is the reason WHY names are released.   That is something known when an application is submitted whether groundskeeper or president.

stanback Apr 22, 2014 7:53 AM

All records pertaining to the search should be released EXCEPT for the names of the individuals that were considered. If you work for a company and you apply and interview at another, would you want them to call your current employer and let them know that you applied and were interviewed for a position at their company but did not get the job. Public institution or not, there is NO REASON to release the names of the applicants and doing so will scare away any highly qualified candidates in the future.