Where’s Waldo?

Should the final stages of searches for college and university presidents be characterized by secrecy, with the names of the candidates only known to the search committee and a few others?  This topic has been getting an increasing amount of attention lately, as many faculty members grumble that they should not be deprived of learning, in advance, the identity of the person they will be burning in effigy six months later. 

Undaunted by this controversy, Auburn University’s Board of Trustees has taken the concept of the “secret search” to the next level.  Not only will their search for Auburn’s new President be conducted “under the radar,” the name of the successful candidate will not be shared even after the individual takes office.  Indeed, the University plans to keep secret the identity of the President for the entire duration of his or her term in office.

According to Board Chair Clement Gravenstone, the logic underlying this decision is straightforward:

“For at least the past decade college presidents have been lightning rods for negative publicity.  Hell, a president can get in trouble these days for just hugging the school mascot.  It’s ridiculous! 

“Well, you can’t get in trouble if no one knows who you are.  Our next President will function fully incognito.  The individual we hire will not have an office on campus.  The President will operate out of an underground bunker in an undisclosed location in Lee County that was once used by the Army to monitor A-Bomb tests and the CIA to put LSD in our water supply.  

“The President will never appear in public, but will hold monthly audio-only press conferences using an encrypted voice-alteration device.  All Presidential decisions will be implemented by the Provost or Campus Police, depending on the issue.  

“We realize that some folks might see the actions we are taking as inconsistent with a free and open society, and they would be right.  But the time has come for administrative leadership at Auburn to ‘go dark’, as it were, in the name of more ambitious goals.  Transparency had its day at our university, however briefly, and what did we get in return?  A victory over Purdue in the 2018 Music City Bowl in Nashville, Tennessee, that’s what we got.  Pathetic.  Simply pathetic.  We can — and must — do better.  Our alumni and current students deserve nothing less.   

“Interviews for the position of President at Auburn University will begin…..sometime……somewhere Details about the search will be communicated at the appropriate time to those who need to know.  If you don’t hear anything from us, rest assured that you don’t need to know.  

“When a final decision is reached, white smoke will billow from the chimney of Samford Hall.  This is the only notification that the University community and the public will receive.”

Interested parties are invited to log in to Auburn’s PrezCam, a surveillance camera that monitors the chimney 24 hours a day.