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SOU trustees to deliberate on next president

Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneA Southern Oregon University student returns to campus.
Tuesday’s closed-door meeting calls for selection of top candidate and order to enter into contract negotiations

The Southern Oregon University Board of Trustees will meet Nov. 2 to discuss and possibly decide who the next president will be.

Board members will convene in room 305 of the Hannon Library on campus from 1:45 p.m. to 3:45 p.m. “or until business concludes,” according to a notice released by the university.

The meeting will be held in executive session but members of the public can submit comments in writing to trustees@sou.edu.

It will mark the first deliberations board members have on the five candidates since they visited Ashland and Medford in October.

The finalists are: Chris Gilmer, president of West Virginia University at Parkersburg; Brock Tessman, deputy commissioner of the Montana University System; Curtis Bridgeman, the Roderick and Carol Wendt Professor of Business Law at the Willamette University College of Law; Junius Gonzales, provost and professor at the New York Institute of Technology; Richard J. Bailey, Jr., president of Northern New Mexico College.

Joe Mosely, director of community and media relations for SOU, explained the upcoming trustees’ meeting in the context of the overall presidential search, which began several months ago, after Linda Schott announced her retirement from the position at the end of the year.

Mosley said the meeting’s expressed purpose is to select a top candidate and authorize the chair to enter into contract negotiations with SOU’s next president.

“When that negotiation process has been completed, the board will meet again to make an appointment of the president and announce it publicly,” he wrote. “The public will be notified when that meeting is scheduled. We can’t predict exactly when that will occur, but we hope to make the announcement in November.”

When the newspaper asked if it was possible the board needed more time beyond Nov. 2 to decide who the next president would be, Mosley did not rule it out, but was cautious not to get ahead of deliberations.

“Of course, if the board needs more time to deliberate, it will take the time necessary to make the right decision for SOU,” he wrote. “However, [those are] hypothetical questions regarding the board’s choice among the five, and only the board’s deliberations could reveal answers to those kinds of questions. There is no pre-planned choice, so we cannot predict what the board will do. It’s best to wait until the board acts, rather than speculate.”

It remains to be seen whether the chosen candidate will be able to make it to the valley in person when the board convenes publicly to make an announcement, the SOU spokesman added.

“Their current personal and professional responsibilities (as well as considerations such as flight availability) will dictate whether or not they can be here in person, on what may be short notice,” Mosley wrote.

After Schott’s retirement announcement in April, an 18-member search committee was appointed by the board the following month to find and recommend candidates for it to consider, accepting applications from June through September.

Listening sessions were held in June for members of the campus community and general public to sound off on the qualities they would like to see in the next SOU president.

The committee received over 100 applications nationwide and by September had whittled them down to 12 for virtual interviews. From that pool, five candidates made the cut to be finalists. Their individual campus visits over several two-day periods in October included public town hall meetings and closed door interviews with the board.