The immediate context of this IHE article is the resignation of the U Illinois system president, but the lessons to be drawn are systemic:
... a broader failing of the presidential search process, in which boards are so eager to secure experienced presidents that they are willing to overlook flaws and too concerned with protecting the anonymity of candidates to properly vet them.
Labor economists have documented that, in professions such as entertainment and management, previous experience is overvalued. Boards would prefer someone who has demonstrated some level of competency rather than take a risk on someone not working out, and they are willing to pay large salaries for that experience.
... Marko Terviö, an economist at Aalto University in Finland, in a paper entitled “Superstars and Mediocrities: Market Failure in the Discovery of Talent” [writes] “This market failure would manifest itself as a bias for hiring mediocre incumbents at excessive wages.”
... According to the American Council on Education’s most recent survey on college and university presidents, about 20 percent of higher education chief executives held presidencies immediately prior to stepping into their current roles.
The desire to secure experienced candidates drives an increased level of confidentiality in searches. Search consultants and many board members say keeping the names of candidates confidential -- in many cases until a selection is made -- attracts a better pool of candidates, many of whom would be reluctant to enter out of fear of backlash on their home campus.
... But many faculty members don’t buy that argument. By keeping searches secret, they say, boards are discounting the importance of the relationship between faculty members and presidents, which is essential to university governance.
... Anonymous searches also don’t give faculty members and the broader community the opportunity to raise issues that search consultants or references might not raise, critics say. The more eyes looking into a candidate, the likelier it is that problems will be addressed before they get on campus, they say.