UNC’s search benefits from candidates’ withdrawals

The search for the next chancellor for UNC-Chapel Hill has been extended. UNC President Molly Broad and the search committee blame the delay on the publication of four candidates’ names in December, which caused two of them to remove their names from consideration.

The names made public in December (in The News & Observer and The Chapel Hill News) were: Dr. Jeffrey Houpt, dean of the UNC-CH medical school; Carol Christ, executive vice chancellor and provost of the University of California-Berkeley; Elson Floyd, former UNC-CH executive vice chancellor and now Western Michigan University president; and Andrew Sorensen, president of the University of Alabama.

Christ and Houpt withdrew their names after they were made public.

Broad has spoken on several occasions about the need to keep the selection process of top university officials closed from public scrutiny, which she said would deter strong candidates from seeking the position. She urged for secrecy at the onset of this search, saying that it wouldn’t take much for top candidates to get “spooked.”

“It certainly makes life more complicated when you have strong people withdraw from consideration,” Broad said in December after Christ and Houpt dropped out.

But are those candidates’ withdrawals actually a setback to the selection process? Jon Sanders, the director of publications of the Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, doesn’t think so. He sees the withdrawals as a gain for the process.

“Candidates who are unable or unwilling to handle public scrutiny would be unsuitable for the chancellorship of a major public university,” Sanders said. “By dropping out, these candidates did the search committee a favor.”

Sanders said university leaders face numerous controversies on campus and off, and how they handle those controversies will be scrutinized, second-guessed and criticized. Leaders must be prepared and able to handle that burden.

The leader of a university the size of UNC-CH is in an especially visible position, Sanders said. “UNC doesn’t need a leader who can get ‘spooked,’” he added.

Entrepreneurship to benefit education

Entrepreneurship in education is on the rise, according to a recent analysis by William C. Symonds that appeared in Business Week and on the National Center for Policy Analysis’ daily website, www.ncpa.org. Dissatisfaction with public schools, the explosion of Internet-based learning and rising capital, should greatly expand for profit school ventures, Symonds says.

Revenues of for-profit education companies account for only 10 percent of the $780 billion spent on education. The total market capitalization of education stocks makes up less than 1 percent of U.S. capital markets. But the amount of private venture capital pouring into education quadrupled to $3.3 billion in 1999. And the number of publicly-funded charter schools soared from fewer than 100 in 1994 to nearly 1,700 last fall. Experts predict that number will rise to 2,300 in the year 2000. Experts also predict a recovery of education stocks, which fell in 1999.