Wichita State University will begin a search process to replace Jay Golden as its next president, but that committee-led search will be secret, the Kansas Board of Regents decided Wednesday afternoon.
In deciding on a closed search, the Regents said most of the candidates the committee would target are in high-profile positions at their respective institutions and would hesitate to publicly apply for an open search hiring process.
The board hired Washington, D.C.-based AGB Search to vet candidates and drive the search process. Wichita attorney and Wichita State University Foundation board member Dan Peare will chair the committee, which will be split between internal members, such as students and faculty, as well as external members, such as community representatives. Regents president Blake Flanders and Regent Allen Schmidt will represent the state board on the committee.
Golden resigned suddenly and without explanation in late September, with the Regents appointing provost Richard Muma as interim president in October. Golden had been the center of controversy after complying with student demands that he disinvite Ivanka Trump from giving a commencement speech at the university.
The fallout from that decision led the Regents to hold an executive session in June over Golden’s future at Wichita State, but the Regents ultimately kept Golden on the job.
Golden lasted less than a year as president, but he will continue to receive a reduced salary from Wichita State University Foundation private funds through June for unspecified consulting services, The Associated Press reported.
Flanders told the Regents that even though the search will be closed, university stakeholders will still have several chances to provide the committee with input on what they would like to see in a future president.
In other business, the Regents heard a report on deferred maintenance, or backlogs of needed repair and upkeep, at state university and college buildings.
One study looked at about half of the approximately 1,000 buildings owned and managed by the Regents, representing over 35 million square feet of space, and found that it would take $1.46 billion to bring those conditions to "good" or "like new" condition.
Maintenance on buildings eligible for revenue from the educational building fund, which comes from a 1-mill property tax specifically for educational building repairs, was estimated at $1.17 billion, higher than a similar 2018 study that had estimated those costs at $895 million.
As part of the same report, a separate study found that Kansas higher education institutions aren’t using their spaces efficiently, and existing instructional space is underutilized. Approximately 1 million square feet of space could feasibly be repurposed to better and more efficiently meet the institutions’ needs, according to the report.
Chad Bristow, director of facilities for the Regents, told the board that future steps include "right-sizing" university campuses and possibly incentivizing institutions to raze obsolete buildings or reduce their buildings’ physical footprints.
But Regent Mark Hutton pointed out that getting rid of buildings or consolidating spaces also costs money, and the Regents will have to work with the Kansas Legislature in coming up with a plan to tackle the large projects. Matt Casey, director of legislative affairs, suggested asking the Legislature to remove a square-footage formula that allocates repair funds based on the amount of square feet at each campus, so as to not disincentivize universities from reducing their square footage.
The Regents also approved mostly flat housing and dining rates for the state universities next school year. Although universities have faced large COVID-19 expenses and revenue losses, university leaders said they needed to keep fees flat to remain competitive in the higher education market.