Thanks to the relentless efforts of a newspaper in Illinois, we now know who the finalists were for the top spot at the University of Illinois last year. As it turns out, they included University of Kentucky provost Kumble Subbaswamy.
The Herald-Leader reported this Tuesday, relying on a story in the Champagne-Urbana News-Gazette, which pursued the information for over a year from a stonewalling university administration.
Online comments on both papers' Web sites criticized the reports as being uninteresting because the information was so obvious. The other finalists, like Subbaswamy, are longtime academics who have risen through increasingly responsible administrative positions at universities. They are exactly the people you would expect to be candidates for the job.
This is news because public universities form future leaders, are critical to a region's economic prospects and are supported by tax dollars. The public has a right to know more about how their leaders are chosen.
Kentucky, like Illinois, operated a secret search to find the replacement for Lee T. Todd Jr. In the end, the university community and the public only learned the name of the one, successful candidate.
Private search firms and the committees that hire them argue the names of finalists should be withheld because candidates might withdraw, or simply not apply, fearing their current employers would learn they're on the market.
But the ho-hum response to this story illustrates that's simply not true. We now know Subbasawamy was a candidate at UI and the world hasn't come to an end. While he may very well be happy at UK, as a school spokesman said, it would be foolish to think he has no higher ambition.
Likewise, it doesn't look like things have gone haywire in Illinois because citizens there finally learned about the finalists.
So, again, what is the point of conducting these searches in secret?