The University System of Maryland’s selection of University of Maryland, Baltimore President Jay Perman as its next chancellor has been widely hailed as the right choice, but the selection process has raised questions about a system dogged by issues of transparency and accountability.
Since Perman was announced as chancellor Thursday night, the system has not answered several questions about his selection: when he was recommended to the Board of Regents by the search committee, when the board voted for him and whether other candidates were presented to the board for consideration. A system spokesperson, who said Perman’s start date was yet to be determined, said Perman’s employment agreement was still being finalized.
“I don’t know the answers to any of those other questions, and because the practice and policy with any search for a president or chancellor has been that the search process is confidential, I don’t think I’ll know,” Mike Lurie, a spokesman for the system, wrote in an email Monday.
No recent agenda of the full board lists a vote on the new chancellor.
Sen. Jim Rosapepe, D-Prince George’s, a sponsor of 2019 legislation to reform board practices, was surprised to hear that the Board of Regents had not held a public vote on Perman’s appointment.
“I just assumed that they had voted in a public meeting,” he said. “Most decisions are supposed to be made in public meetings. We strengthened that law this year.”
Chancellor Robert L. Caret announced in May that he would not continue as chancellor after his employment agreement ends in June 2020. The search for his successor dovetailed with searches for presidents at the University of Maryland, College Park and at Coppin State University. Those two searches are still in progress.
Perman has been praised as a strong choice for the chancellor’s job by government leaders and fellow presidents, including UMBC President Freeman Hrabowski, who endorsed Perman in a Baltimore Sun editorial on Monday.
Gov. Larry Hogan also praised Perman.
“Jay has served with distinction as president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore, and has a strong record of empowering students and communities,” Hogan said in a statement. “A dedicated educator and civil servant, Jay is the right choice for this critical position, and I look forward to working with him to continue advancing our world-renowned university system.”
Perman’s appointment comes a year after the board came under intense scrutiny for its actions in response to the death of University of Maryland, College Park football player Jordan McNair.
Fallout from McNair’s June 2018 death included the resignation of then-board Chair James Brady; the early retirement of University of Maryland, College Park President Wallace Loh, which was later rescinded; and state legislation passed this year aimed at reforming the board. Loh later announced he would retire in June 2020.
The reform legislation included requirements that open meetings be live-streamed and that vote tallies from meetings be included in meeting minutes.
The regents also commissioned a review from the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges of the system’s governance structure operations.
“We heard consistent support and urgings that the system and the board must consider an active strategy to reconnect to multiple communities across the state in order to rebuild trust and confidence,” the report said. “This might have been the most essential message we heard from many with whom we met.”
Rosapepe, whose district includes areas surrounding the College Park campus, praised Perman’s appointment. He said he believes Perman has demonstrated support for community development around the University of Maryland, Baltimore campus, a matter that is also critical for the College Park community.
He also praised the speed of Perman’s selection.
“I know they were trying to move relatively quickly, which I think was the right thing to do both from stability and improving credibility for the system,” Rosapepe said.
The search for Loh’s replacement in College Park has also come under criticism, especially from staff and students, for being mostly closed.
The search committee has held open forums to hear from community stakeholders. But, as has been the case with most presidential searches in the system, there are no plans to release the names of finalists for the position or to hold forums with the finalists.
The system has said this process allows applicants who already have a job to apply without fear of repercussions. Rosapepe said it was appropriate.
“The process is important, but the mission is the most important thing and getting the right person is the goal,” he said. “You can have a successful process, but it can fail because you got the wrong person. We’ve got to keep our eye on the ball.”