The recent editorial endorsing the “lone” finalist scheme concocted by the University of Minnesota Board of Regents for selecting the successor to outgoing President Eric Kaler (himself the product of that same “sole” selection process) clings to the shibboleth that a more transparent arrangement with multiple finalists would deter applications by some quality candidates currently in other high-level academic positions (“Taking stock of U’s finalist for top post,” Dec. 10).
There is scant evidence to support this oft-repeated myth. To the contrary, experiences in other states and even in Minnesota for other top-tier academic positions or other public-sector jobs reflect that disclosure of names of applicants results in a better, more credible process composed of an ample group of attractive candidates.
Even if it does deter some prospects, there are transcendent reasons for eschewing the lone finalist practice. Sunshine laws are not intended to constitute a job-security vehicle for anxious academics. Their purpose is to maximize widespread scrutiny of the selection process and facilitate input from the public about the strengths and deficiencies, including past behavior patterns, of the candidates, which may not surface in the type of opaque arrangement devised by the U.
This newspaper was at the forefront of the litigation preceding Kaler’s selection that resulted in a determination by the state Supreme Court in 2004 that the university’s lone finalist format violated those sunshine measures and admonished it not to repeat the ruse.
But the U contemptuously did so in choosing Kaler six years later and, again, last week with the virtually certain selection of his successor, University of South Carolina Provost Joan Gabel.
Rather than extolling the process, the public should be disdainfully uttering the aphorism “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.”
Marshall H. Tanick, Minneapolis
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I welcome Gabel as a finalist for the U presidency. She clearly has the academic and leadership credentials for the job. And I agree with the Star Tribune Editorial Board that requiring all finalists to be public would lead to a weaker candidate pool and ultimately hurt the university and state. It is disconcerting, however, that only three of the 12 regents were allowed to speak to the candidates before selecting the finalists (“U regents put on the spot over top job,” front page, Dec. 5). If the regents are making decisions based on the opinions and impressions of the search committee, then it seems that the regents’ role is largely superfluous. The state should move to permit them to hold private, preliminary interviews with the “semifinalists” before a finalist is offered for public scrutiny. The regents’ job is to make informed decisions, and current law prohibits them from doing so.
Ryan Slechta, Arden Hills
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It seems incongruous that the Star Tribune Editorial Board is advising the Legislature to “review state statutes to ensure that the law’s disclosure requirements don’t impede Minnesota’s higher education institutions as they compete for top executive talent.” A primary purpose of a newspaper is to provide citizens with information about the operation of their public institutions.
The governing statute provides that the names of applicants for public posts are no longer classified as private data in two circumstances: when they are certified as eligible for appointment or when considered by the appointing authority to be finalists (Minnesota Statute 13.43, Subdivision 3).
The regents instructed the search committee to recommend three to four lead candidates for president. At their Sep. 14 meeting, the regents declared that they “are committed to selecting a president who has gone through the application process and has been thoroughly vetted and recommended by the PSAC [the presidential search advisory committee].”
So here the recommendation of the lead candidates is equivalent to certifying the candidates as eligible for appointment. The names of the three lead candidates are no longer private data once the search committee certified them as eligible for appointment.
Michael McNabb, Lakeville
THE STATE OF DISCOURSE
Motes, beams and all that
Hugh Hewitt is correct — our nation’s political discourse is increasingly vulgar and hateful, and, yes, it is a serious problem (“We must push back against America’s creep toward cruelty,” Dec. 8). But his historical trip down venom lane omits one of the earlier and most significant culprits — talk radio. Long before President Donald Trump, long before Fox/MSNBC, long before online trolls — Rush Limbaugh-style radio hosts pioneered and grew this angry, vulgar, advocacy-style media into a potent force in right-wing politics. Trump is the but a culmination of this trend. Hewitt mentions churches as a potential solution. Given that evangelicals overwhelmingly approve of Trump, that would be a great place to start. But before Hewitt lectures America too much on the importance of not being cruel, he may want to look in his talk-radio mirror.
Ryan Pulkrabek, Minneapolis
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But the “creep of cruelty into our everyday lives” did not begin with television and culminate with David Letterman, “Saturday Night Live” and “The Daily Show.”
It began hundreds of years ago with slavery, lynchings and racism. And these days, torture, poisoning peoples’ drinking water, demonizing Mexicans, denying poor people medical care, locking up kids in cages — you know, real cruelty.
How can we really have a “civil” discussion about uncivilized behavior that injures and kills people?
Satire does not kill people. Your cynical use of rhetoric to distract and spread blame may not kill anyone. But you’re not helping.
Dan Freiberg, Golden Valley
Appropriate and constructive
It is clear in reading a Dec. 10 letter equating hunting pictures to pornography and promoting gun violence that the writer has very little to no experience as an outdoorsman. The young hunters in the photos he laments are not what ails our society. These young hunters are learning proper gun safety and the value of spending time with family and friends in the outdoors. The letter writer is correct in that hunter numbers are decreasing, though perhaps the reduction of young hunters correlates with the increase in gun violence. We need more young hunters in the field learning from their fathers, mothers and adult mentors. Instead of worrying about a picture of a young hunter with a deer and rifle, let’s further develop and promote hunter recruitment programs. As a lifelong hunter and father of young hunters, I applaud the Star Tribune for publishing pictures and the stories of young hunters.
Dale Nygaard, St. Michael
MEN AND LONELINESS
An inspired solution
Kudos to Gail Rosenblum for her Dec. 8 Inspired section article “Loneliness buster: Men’s Sheds give retirees a place to talk, give back, feel valued.” Truly inspired, full of hope and goodness, and a very good solution to a social problem. Also remindful of the old Jewish proverb “Loneliness is worse than death.”
Willard B. Shapira, Roseville