Faculty members at the College of Lake County, in Illinois, got just what they wanted Thursday afternoon when William M. Griffin, the chair of the board of trustees, took himself out of consideration for the college's presidency.
At a last-minute meeting of the board, Griffin, a retired businessman who has taught courses as an adjunct but has never held a full-time position at a college, backed down in the face of the faculty's opposition, choosing to "take his name off the table because of his love of the college and the students," Evelyn Schiele, a college spokeswoman, said. Professors said that it was inappropriate for a board chair to suddenly become a candidate, without a search, and having his former board colleagues elect him.
A few hours before the meeting, Schiele confirmed that Griffin was “the only person who is being considered for the position,” though now the board will take steps to appoint an interim president and begin a public search for a new president.
David Groeninger, vice president of the college's chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, said he was "foolishly optimistic" going into the meeting, hoping that Griffin "would do the right thing and decide not to pursue the presidency."
He was "delighted and pleased" to hear Griffin's announcement and said that the chairman "received a warm round of applause from the members of the college community in attendance."
Earlier yesterday, before Griffin publicly announced his decision to take himself out of consideration for the job, tensions ran deep.
Groeninger had planned to read a statement signed by union leaders and the chair of the college's Faculty Senate that accused the board of having "orchestrated [a] complex plan without official or substantive input from any CLC employees, students or Lake County taxpayers."
In an interview before the meeting, Richard A. Anderson, the board’s vice chair, said the board was in fact following the faculty’s wishes by forgoing the college’s third national presidential search since 2005. The first search ended with the selection of a candidate who ultimately took another job and the second one ended with the hiring of Richard Fonte, who resigned in June under  faculty pressure.
“The faculty attacked us for the searches, calling them a waste of time and a waste of taxpayers’ money,” Anderson said, referring to the two searches that ultimately put Fonte in office. “So now we’re listening to them and not doing a national search and they’re attacking us again … I want to ask them, ‘What do you really want?’" (Faculty members said that they were criticizing problems in previous searches, not suggesting that a search not take place.)
Following the difficulty that Fonte had adapting to the college’s culture, Anderson and other members of the board argued that Griffin’s familiarity with the college gives him an edge. Though the board would have considered other candidates from within the college, “there aren’t any other qualified ones,” Anderson said.
Now, though, the board will conduct a search, the details of which will likely be discussed at its next meeting on Aug. 7.