Pitt’s chancellor search remains behind closed doors

By Elizabeth Primrose, Senior Staff Writer

The committee searching for Pitt’s next chancellor gathered feedback through a survey and open forums from the University community in the fall — but the Pitt community has not received any updates since then.

Chancellor Patrick Gallagher announced in April 2022 that he will leave his position this summer. Board of Trustees Chair Doug Browning appointed a search committee in September 2022 and selected executive search firm Storbeck Search to assist in the process. This firm also assisted in Pitt’s last search for a new chancellor in 2013. 

The search committee and Board of Trustees have not provided any public updates on the progress of the search. The “timeline” section of the chancellor search web page lists two items for spring 2023 — “applicants interviewed confidentially” and “nineteenth Pitt chancellor announced” — but does not elaborate on exact dates for these items. 

The office of the secretary of the Board of Trustees and the communications staff in the Office of the Chancellor did not respond to email requests for comment about the search process. 

University spokesperson Nick France did not have any information to share when asked about the process the selection committee is using, if there currently is a narrowed down list of applicants or if the committee has a timeline on when the new chancellor will be announced. 

“I asked those at hand about these questions and they say there’s nothing to share at this time,” France said.

The 26-person search committee, chaired by Eva Tansky Blum, former chair of the Board of Trustees, includes trustees, faculty and administration. Blum also led the search to replace Mark Nordenberg in 2013. 

The committee also has one undergraduate student in Danielle Floyd, president of the Student Government Board, and one graduate student in Varbi Mridha, vice president of finance for the Graduate and Professional Student Government.

When asked for an update on the search process, Floyd directed questions to Geovette Washington, senior vice chancellor and chief legal officer at Pitt, who assists the search committee.

“The Committee is not in a position to share anything about the search at this time,” Washington said. “When that changes, we will reach out.”

When asked why the committee will not share any information, University spokesperson Jared Stonesifer did not provide any explanation, and said the search committee will not share any further information prior to naming a finalist.

“As previously noted, there will be no comment on the search until the finalist is named,” Stonesifer said.

Not all searches to fill positions in University administration have been so secretive. According to an email message from Joe McCarthy, vice provost of undergraduate studies, the search committee for the new dean of the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences and College of General Studies will bring four finalists for the position to campus to interact with the University community. 

In the announcement, McCarthy, chair of the search committee, said the DSAS/CGS Dean Search SharePoint will share candidate information, locations of the meetings and links to provide feedback. McCarthy said the SharePoint will share information on the candidates 48 hours prior to each candidate’s visit to ensure confidentiality.

Ryan Young, vice president for governance of SGB, said he understands why the selection process for the new chancellor may be opaque in the beginning since candidates may not want to interview for the position if they know their name will be public. However, Young, who is a candidate for SGB president, said he hopes the Board of Trustees will release a list of finalists before making a final decision. 

“They’re so private that they won’t even tell you what they are thinking about in terms of procedures or timeline, which I think is also a little disappointing,” Young said. “I really hope to see them open up the process at the very end. I don’t think that’s out of the question.”

Corbin Makar, another board member who is also running for SGB president, said during a presidential debate last month he can understand the lack of transparency in the initial stages of the chancellor selection process. But he said the final candidacy stages should be open to the Pitt community.

“I would obviously prefer more information released to the public,” Makar, a junior communication rhetoric major, said. “There’s no reason as to why this process should be so secretive when we have other administrative officials noticeably involved with other candidate processes at other universities that are entirely public.”

Young, a junior physics & astronomy and math double major, said he appreciates the process Portland State University used in the selection of their new president, which included three publicly announced finalists. Portland State’s Board of Trustees voted to appoint Ann Cudd, provost and senior vice chancellor of Pitt, as the university’s next president. 

“You have a private process up until the last three finalists, then those finalists come to campus and they interact with students,” Young said. “I think that is the model we should use.” 

Young said he thinks it is “weird” that the selection committee has not provided much information this semester, given that Gallagher is set to step down in only a few months. 

“I will say, I will be extremely disappointed if the next chancellor is chosen without the finalists ever being published,” Young said. “If that doesn’t happen, that will be a complete failure [of] the selection process.”