The changes were not without
controversy, but our experience
thus far shows that they
provide a much sounder basis
for identifying and appointing
effective academic leaders.
committee; and two, the procedures employed by the search committee
in evaluating candidates.
In decanal searches, the first big change was to eliminate public presentations by candidates and move to an entirely confidential search
process. Recognizing that this increases the significance and role of the
search committee, the corollary is that committee members are now selected so that virtually the entire committee is elected by the different
constituent groups within the relevant faculty. Since we adopted this
process, York has attracted deans and senior administrators from other
institutions who would not have been willing to participate in an open
The tradeoff is that the search committee is almost entirely elected by
various constituencies in the academic unit. Although the president holds
the right to appoint the committee chair and one other member, all other
members (on a committee of 11 or 12 members) are elected by the faculty.
In effect, the faculty or unit is asked to trust the collective judgment of
colleagues on a committee which the community itself has selected for
York also developed procedures intended to guide decanal search
committees towards a more evidence-based, less intuitive assessment
procedure. The first step is to identify the principal responsibilities or
competencies that are required of a dean (or other senior academic administrator) in seven categories, including management experience and
research and scholarly activity. Once a consensus is reached about the
categories and competencies, these are incorporated into a checklist. Each
committee member uses the checklist to review and score the curriculum
vitae of potential candidates; the scoring of the CVs is shared within the
committee and helps it to agree on a candidate shortlist.
The competencies are used to create a rubric for assessing short-listed
candidates through the interview process. Again, committee members explain their rationale for scoring candidates as they did to their colleagues
on the committee. After the discussion, each committee member has the
chance to revise their scoring. The scores are collated and tabulated, resulting in a total score as well as a relative ranking for each of the finalist candidates. This ranking provides the basis for a committee recommendation
to the president regarding the preferred candidate for the appointment.
This process is not intended to eliminate individual judgment re-
garding the suitability of the various candidates. Rather, the goal is to
structure the exercise so that the judgments made by the committee are
more reliable and more relevant to the pre-selected criteria associated
with success in the position.
Patrick Monahan is Deputy Attorney General for the Province of Ontario. Until he took up
the post in November 2012, Mr. Monahan had spent 30 years at York University as a law
professor, dean of law and, for the last three years, vice-president, academic, and provost.