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Professor Questions Indiana University Presidential Search

October 18, 2021

An Indiana University professor recently questioned the process by which Pamela Whitten, the new president of the university, was selected, shedding light on what he called a “tortuous and flawed” search.

Steve Sanders, a professor of law at the university, published a blog post about the search on Medium two weeks ago. The 17-member search committee -- made up of faculty members, staff members, students, alumni and others -- presented the Board of Trustees with four finalists. The board rejected all four of them, Sanders said, and didn’t tell the committee why.

“As the clock was ticking toward President Michael McRobbie’s June 30th retirement and the prospect loomed of a failed search, the trustees themselves drew up a list of approximately four new external candidates, including Whitten, and asked the search committee to interview them -- the inverse of how the process is supposed to work,” Sanders wrote.

Sanders also alleged that the university violated Indiana’s Open Door Law after the board agreed to pay McRobbie $582,000 in an executive session. The half-million-dollar salary is for a six-month consulting agreement, a university spokesperson told Inside Indiana Business.

Sanders said he sent a draft of his story to Whitten, McRobbie, three board members, the university spokesperson and general counsel before he posted it.

“I invited them to dispute any facts or provide comments,” he wrote. “None did so.”

Indiana University trustees met two weeks ago but did not discuss the search process, The Herald-Times reported.

A university spokesperson declined to comment on Sanders’s post to Inside Higher Ed.

“We will not comment further on the search beyond the fact that Pamela Whitten was unanimously and enthusiastically chosen by IU’s Board of Trustees,” the spokesperson wrote in an email.

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