The departure of Duane Nellis as president of the University of Idaho has kicked in a nationwide search for a replacement, standard procedure these days for filling such jobs as university presidents.
It will take about a year. It will involve dozens of people, vast amounts of time, and considerable money and angst. How much money for the search? That varies, but similar searches around the country these days tend to cost upward of $100,000, for consultants, travel, advertising and more.
The president it generates probably, if history is any guide, will have an impressive resume but little or no experience with either Idaho or the university, and so necessarily will have to spend a year or two getting acquainted and learning the ropes. Because the search is national, salary and benefits will ratchet up to the national marketplace level, which has been racheting ever higher and higher.
How long will this investment – assuming the choice is a good one, which isn't always the case – last? Maybe not long. In the case of Nellis, chosen by a nationwide search, about four years. His predecessor as permanent president, Timothy White, also lasted four years. His predecessor, Robert Hoover, lasted a little longer, about seven years, but left under a cloud.
Something like this probably will be the university's, and Idaho's, experience again.
Last week an interim president – to fill in between Nellis and a permanent successor – was named. He is Don Burnett, the dean of the university's law school.
The state Board of Education could do a lot worse than to just make his appointment permanent, right now.
If he'd take it (his age, in his mid-60s, might be his argument against). But consider his background. (more…)