A quick, semi-speculative presidential search analysis

I’ve had a few gut feelings about the presidential search in the last week or so. As a matter of logistics and being prepared to break the story, I’m stuck speculating (we have been all semester, I’m looking at you SEC…) about will happen next. Just what will those darn curators do now?

For months the search has been veiled in this secretive, elaborate web of public notices and closed meetings. We know virtually nothing about any candidates or their qualifications — not even very good rumors — and up until now we’ve never had any idea when a new president might be announced.

But suddenly, I can see the light.

The Board of Curators has passed a list of an undisclosed (surprise) number of finalists to an advisory committee made up of representatives from all walks of academic life at all four UM System campuses.

That’s all fine and dandy, but what that means for us [reporters, the media, et al] is that now that the list of finalists is out and about, there is in fact a timeline for an announcement.

It may be subtle and certainly unintentional, but there are 20 members on the advisory committee. That means there’s upwards of 30+ people (including the curators and involved UM System admins) who know the remaining candidates — and likely know who the front-runner is — spread across the state.

Of course they’re all bound to secrecy, but the curators must understand that the longer they wait with this many people in the know, the higher the risk that one person drops one clue that just happens to make sense to the one reporter who hears it who is able to connect it and figure out the candidate. No matter how far-fetched, it could happen. And the curators have taken such care to be so secret, it would seem there’s no way they’d allow that much risk this late in the game.

I’ve been embedded in this story since the beginning of this semester. So when board Chairman Warren Erdman tells me that the curators will receive the advisory committee’s report Thursday afternoon, I understand that the curators will have two executive sessions (those are the closed-door, private meetings) to discuss the matters at their regularly scheduled meetings this week — all before the normally scheduled press conference Friday morning.

Read for yourself part of the email exchange I had with UM Spokeswoman Jennifer Hollingshead this afternoon. Sometimes the raw answers and context can be more telling than just the parts that make it into my story.

I don’t know about the other news outlets, but I’m letting my colleagues at the Missourian know they’re all on call Friday morning — because I think we’re going to have a new UM System president before this week is out.

I’ll be keeping things updated on my Twitter, @zach_murdock, following Tuesday’s advisory committee meeting and all day Thursday and Friday when the board meets in full at UMSL. Stay tuned to Twitter and columbiamissourian.com for the latest in UM System president news.

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