Finding a leader


Dr. Lloyd Jacobs, 72, who has led the University of Toledo since 2006, will step down effective June 30 of next year, the university announced last week. With Dr. Jacobs’ departure more than a year away, it’s way too early to talk about his legacy. But it’s not too soon — in fact, right on time — to talk about a search process for his successor that’s open, transparent, and inclusive.

The educational institution that serves and helps define this region faces enormous challenges in the next decade. They include reversing declining enrollment and maintaining access, quality, and affordable tuition — even with devastating cutbacks in state aid. The next leader must also steer the university in a digital age that is changing education, including the roles of classrooms and student housing. She or he must find better ways to cooperate with the state’s community colleges, collaborate with the community, and shore up university leadership at the department and dean level.

The new president must be a dedicated educator, a superb administrator, and a skilled politician.

“It will take a very special person,” Joseph H. Zerbey IV, chairman of the UT Board of Trustees, told The Blade editorial page.

Too much is at stake for the board to conduct business in a secretive or sequestered manner. The community needs to know the board’s priorities in making this pick and whether it is considering a diverse pool of applicants from around the country. It needs to have a real say in how the board conducts business. Compensation and perks must be public. Dr. Jacobs is paid $392,700 a year.

Mr. Zerbey, also president and general manager of The Blade, said the board, with the help of a consultant, will start the search immediately. It hopes to name a new UT president by the end of this year, giving him or her about six months to work with Dr. Jacobs on a smooth transition. The board will name three or four finalists, probably between Thanksgiving and Christmas, Mr. Zerbey said, following a thorough national search.

To its credit, the board will launch a Web site to keep the community informed during the search, as well as take suggestions and ideas. It will listen to a community advisory committee that will, importantly, include students.

The board plans to make public the names of the finalists for the job, Mr. Zerbey said. That’s good, but it should also consider making public all of the applicants’ names, which could amount to 100 or so.

To evaluate the candidates who make the final cut — and the search process itself — the public should know who was eliminated. Applicants should understand that some loss of privacy is part of doing business in the public sector. UT’s new leader must be committed to openness.

All in all, UT’s Board of Trustees has committed to a process that is open, accountable, and inclusive. As the search for UT’s new president continues, the community should hold the board to that commitment.