More transparency needed in presidential search


The College of William and Mary is no stranger to tradition. Some of the College’s heralded habits are formal: our annual Charter Day ceremonies are elaborate, boasting well-scripted speeches and scepters from the 18th century. The freshman class’s stroll through the Christopher Wren Building during Convocation is sacrosanct, just as the pledging of the Honor Code requires a certain appreciation for tradition and poise.

Obviously, we have plenty of casual customs as well: the Yule Log ceremony is a perennial winter favorite, and who hasn’t gone to the President’s house for Halloween trick-or-treating at least once or twice during their time in Williamsburg? For anyone interested in witnessing some of the College’s more risqué pastimes, spend more than 10 minutes on the Sunken Garden late Friday night and you’ll catch a glimpse of my most beloved tradition (especially when it’s not ghastly cold outside).

The College’s reverence for tradition is intense and well-known. Our admiration of the past and our love of tradition are focal points of our campus-wide community. However, there are no greater traditions in our c than a respect for the freedom of information and a thirst for transparency; the College’s Presidential Search Committee must do more to epitomize those traditions as well as our campus-specific ones.

The Presidential Search Committee is striving to find a replacement for President Taylor Reveley by his expected retirement in June. The Committee is making noble attempts to communicate the intricacies of the selection process to students and faculty; members have published several reports detailing the leadership profiles and aspirations of their preferred candidates. I value the Committee’s transparency regarding its expectations for the 28th president of the College. I certainly feel assured that our next president will possess rewarding and redeeming qualities due to the Committee’s intensive vetting procedures.

Unfortunately, the Committee has also been surprisingly lax in publicizing updates of the candidate selection process. The timeline on the Committee’s webpage is vague and nonspecific. For winter/spring 2018, it merely says that the Committee will “conduct candidate interviews” and “recommend finalists” before finally submitting nominations to the College’s Board of Visitors. There are few details related to the timing of an official announcement as well, leaving students and faculty in the lurch; even the broad category of winter/spring is unclear and subject to debate.

The Presidential Search Committee deserves a certain degree of discretion as it chooses the College’s next president, and I can respect its desire to conduct an unobtrusive search. However, I wish the Committee would derive more inspiration from our college’s traditions of transparency and access to knowledge and publicize details about its preferred candidates before it moves forward to consideration by the Board of Visitors. My peers and I would delight in the opportunity to respond to the Committee’s proposed contenders, and the College would surely benefit from as much student input as possible regarding the selection of its 28th leader.

The president of the College is a vital and symbolic figure. I hope that in the future, students will play a more active role in facilitating the selection of our next president; that can start tomorrow with the enhanced public engagement of our search committee.

Email Ethan Brown at




  1. I have certainly never been on the side of the BOV or the College in a discussion about transperacy, but this is a non issue. The timeline beyond the initial pool of candidates has to remain confidential because those applicants can’t have it known they were shipping around for work. For the alumni who applied for the position, it could be embarrassing/frustrating, and for those at other institutions, career limiting. I understand the frustration at not being able to vote/contribute to the final choice, but that confidentiality has a purpose.


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