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UNH Keeps Finalist List Confidential in Search for President

Ryan Lessard for NHPR

The University of New Hampshire is deciding to keep the list of final candidates in its search for a new president private.  


Last week the Seacoast NAACP and ACLU of New Hampshire sent a letter to John Small, Chairman of the University System of New Hampshire’s Board of Trustees. The message encouraged Small to allow for student and faculty input on the presidential search finalists.


On Monday, UNH published a statement from Small announcing that finalists had been selected and reiterating that the search would remain secret. “By respecting the confidentiality of the candidates, we have been able to attract candidates who would not otherwise participate,” the statement reads.


“We’re certainly disappointed to learn the university did not take advantage of what we see as being a very valuable opportunity,” said Devon Chaffee, Executive Director of the ACLU of New Hampshire.


Chaffee said public forums have been used by the University of Montana and Florida State University, among other institutions, to make the presidential selection process more transparent.


Last year, UNH saw several racially charged incidents on campus, including slurs and drawn images of Nazi swastikas.


“I think that UNH is in a peculiar situation, especially given events over the past year, which we all know have included really high-profile incidents of racial bias on campus,” Chaffee said.


Chaffee argues that UNH has a responsibility to make sure its next president is prepared to address these issues and that building trust on campus is key.


But in his statement, Small calls this kind of secrecy commonplace.


“Confidential searches are now the standard for most high profile private and public universities,” Small wrote.


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