Search for new principal continues, consultation firm hired

Recruitment process facing criticism due to large committee size and externally-focused approach

Principal Daniel Woolf.
Credit: 
Journal file photo

In the months since Principal Daniel Woolf announced he wouldn’t be seeking a third term as principal, the search for his replacement has become active. The recruitment process, which officially began in January of this year, is now fully underway.

According to a Mar. 20 release from The Queen’s Gazette, executive search firm Perrett Laver has been hired to facilitate the process. Consultations are set to occur with internal and external stakeholders, including senior administrators, Board of Trustee members and alumni. 

A public survey can also be found on the school’s Secretariat website, where Queen’s students and community members can provide their thoughts on the new hire. 

As per The Gazette, the timeline for the appointment of the new principal is as follows: “The Joint Board-Senate Principal Search Committee is aiming to identify a first group of interviewees in the summer, and it anticipates interviews will take place in September and October. The committee will then work toward recommending a candidate to the Board of Trustees in December.” 

However, not everyone is satisfied with the methodology used by the University in their hunt for Woolf’s replacement. In a Mar. 17 opinion piece to The Globe and Mail entitled “Why the hiring process for university principals could use a revamp,” Harvey Schachter criticized the committee for its size and outlook. Schachter is a Kingston-based writer who specializes in management issues.

In his piece, Schachter stated that more effective committees for appointment decisions average at about four or five people. As a result, he argued that the larger 19-member size of this search committee poses many problems. 

Schachter also critiqued the outside-appointment trend that has presented itself in the selection processes of the past three principals. Woolf, as well as his predecessors Karen R. Hitchcock and William C. Leggett, were found by external search firms and had been individuals external to the administrative side of Queen’s. 

“Picking a principal is a huge responsibility. But starting with a large committee and a desire to scour the world for candidates rather than fairly evaluate what’s close to hand could use some rethinking,” Schachter wrote. 

In a statement emailed to The Journal, Chancellor Jim Leech, who also serves as chair of the committee, said they’re considering both internal and external replacements. He also commented on the University the 19-representative committee composition, which has been used for almost five decades. He believes this format has “served our community extremely well.” 

“It is important to understand that hiring a leader for one of Canada’s preeminent universities; one that has a history dating before the time of Confederation, is a thoughtful process that can take time,” Leech wrote in the statement. “Selecting the individual who will lead such a longstanding and distinguished institution, with a population of students, academics and staff that rivals many medium-sized towns in this country, requires the utmost care and thought.” 

Principal Woolf’s current term will end on June 30, 2019. 

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