Appearances matter

In light of Dr. Julio León’s recent retirement, Missouri Southern’s Board of Governors made quick work of naming the committee to select his replacement. All committee members are prominent individuals in the Southern community, however the method by which they were selected raised some controversy in Monday’s edition of The Joplin Globe. The Globe contended – and quoted lawyers that agree – that the Board violated the Missouri Sunshine Law by going into closed session to select the committee.

The Globe raised a valid question: Is naming a selection committee a valid exception to the state’s Sunshine Law?

The selection of the University’s new president is the biggest issue to hit Southern in a quarter of a century, and students and faculty need to be aware of the decisions being made by those in positions of authority. This includes the new administration and the Board itself. Even if the intention was not secrecy in this case, we believe the Governors should have leaned toward transparency in their deliberations.

If ever there was a Southern community issue, this is it. The Chart applauds the Board for including a student in the selection committee, and the other members seem to have been chosen with the University’s best interests in mind. We do, however, have a few suggestions.

First, eliminate or open the luncheon the Board holds before each of its regularly scheduled meetings. Though the discussion over lunch is probably everyone’s health, the weather and how good the iced tea is, it could very easily wander into slightly more important issues. The issue with the presidential search committee selection should encourage the Board to do everything above reproach while this process plays out.

Second, ease the tensions and anxiety of the campus community by giving regular, detailed updates about the presidential search. In the aftermath of León’s departure, it is vital that questions about the University’s future and the future of its programs be answered and anxieties assuaged.

Open meetings, open luncheons and open communication should be the way to go here. We live in a world where the perception of reality is sometimes more important than reality itself.