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Bowland and Lonsdale colleges were left without principals for the 2014/2015 academic year this week, after peculiarities in the appointment process led to none of the candidates being recommended by the University’s search committee. The debacle could prove embarrassing for the University’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor for the colleges and student experience, Professor Amanda Chetwynd.
SCAN believes that three candidates put their name forward for the position of Bowland College Principal, and one candidate put their name forward for the position of Lonsdale College Principal. Due to an allegedly unprecedented need for unanimity in the search committee’s decision, all four candidates’ applications were rejected.
The three-year terms of the principals of Bowland and Lonsdale colleges come to an end at the close of the 2013/2014 academic year. Each college principal is allowed two terms in office if the college is satisfied with their performance, and can apply for a third term by going through the selection process. The current Lonsdale College principal, Keith Davidson, has served three terms in office; the current Bowland College principal, Joe Thornberry, has served two.
After applying for the position of college principal, candidates must go in front of a search committee. The search committee is made up of six voting members and one non-voting chair. The six voting members include two members of staff from the college, one member of the college’s JCR, a college principal from another college, a member of University Council and a member of University Senate. Professor Chetwynd sat as chair of both the Bowland College principal and Lonsdale College principal search committees.
The search committee, as opposed to being an appointment panel, recommends the candidate it believes suitable for the position to each College’s syndicate, which in turn makes the appointment. Each syndicate meets once each academic term, and is responsible for the governance of each college. It is composed of the entire Senior Common Room and the JCR executive committee.
Once an appointment has been made by the College Syndicate, the appointment is sent to University Council to be approved. Thus far, however, no appointment can be made because the search committee was unable to recommend a single candidate.
On the morning of Tuesday Week 7, the three candidates who had applied for the position of Bowland College Principal sat before the search committee, and were asked questions by different members of that committee. Afterwards, the members of the committee discussed the candidates’ suitability for the position of Principal. Sources close to the search committee said that it was during this meeting that Professor Chetwynd told the members that the decision had to be unanimous before a recommendation could be made. This was allegedly unknown to the other members of the committee beforehand. As a result of the apparent need for unanimity and the inability of the committee to meet it, no recommendation was made. The position will be re-advertised.
The Bowland College syndicate held an emergency meeting on Thursday Week 7 to discuss the results of the search committee in an attempt to gauge why the committee failed to recommend a single candidate. The outcome of the emergency meeting was unknown when SCAN went to print.
On the afternoon of Tuesday Week 7, several hours after the Bowland College Principal decision was made, the search committee met again – with largely different members – to give questions to the one candidate applying for the position of Lonsdale College Principal. Once again, after the committee had heard from the candidate, the members discussed the candidate’s suitability for the position. In a repeat of the committee’s discussion of the Bowland College Principal candidates, Professor Chetwynd told the members that the decision had to be unanimous for a candidate to be recommended; unanimity was not reached and therefore no recommendation was made. The position will be re-advertised.
At the time of writing it was unclear what Lonsdale College’s reaction would be to the search committee’s inability to propose a candidate.
The debacle surrounding the failure to appoint a Principal to either college could prove damaging to Professor Chetwynd, who is widely believed to be considering applying for the University’s new position of Provost for Student Experience, Colleges and the Library. SCAN attempted to contact Professor Chetwynd, but was unable to get in touch with her before SCAN went to print.
SCAN will release more information about the college principal selection process as more information becomes available.