They visited with faculty, administrators, and students, and carefully checked the references of Dr. Bruce Speck, a candidate for university president at that point.
Unfortunately for the faculty, students, and patrons of Missouri Southern State University, it was not the MSSU Presidential Search Committee headed by Dwight Douglas that performed so admirably, it was the search committee for Missouri Western University in St. Joseph.
Less than two months before Missouri Southern hired Speck, one of only two candidates presented to the Board of Governors, and the only one who was actually interviewed (the other one dropped out when he was hired at another university), the St. Joseph Search committee not only visited Austin Peay, but also the campuses of the other two finalists, Dr Robert Vartabedian, at Eastern New Mexico University, and Dr. David Atkinson, at Manotick, Ontario, Canada. All three men were eventually interviewed by the board.
And incidentally, the Missouri Western Board of Governors discussed hiring a search firm in open session, unlike the Missouri Southern Board, which violated Missouri's open meetings law by taking the discussion behind closed doors.
During community sessions at St. Joseph, the public asked Speck and the other candidates any questions they wished. They did not have to write them out and have them pre-screened as was the case with the public session set up by Douglas at MSSU.
The Missouri Southern Board of Governors appointed the presidential search committee under a shroud of secrecy, again violating the open meetings law since there is absolutely no exception for appointing a committee.
The following passage is taken from a Sept. 20, 2007, Joplin Globe article written by Joe Hadsall:
In August, board Chairman Dwight Douglas said the meeting was not a violation of the Sunshine Law. He said the action behind closed doors was justified because the governors would be mentioning the names of prominent people. Douglas said the board wanted to be able to notify the committee members before their names were publicized.
While it is noble that Douglas, a lawyer who should have known better, was so solicitous of the sensitivities of "prominent people," it was still an obvious Sunshine Law violation.
In a news release, however, Douglas did make an accurate assessment of the effect Bruce Speck's hiring would have on Missouri Southern State University, even before Speck was hired:
“This undertaking is one of the more important events that will take place in the city of Joplin. It will shape the future of higher education for the area for years to come.”
From Saturday: MSSU Presidential Search Committee didn't do its job.