Legislature Debates University President Hiring Process

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Many Nebraskans are eagerly awaiting hearing who will be the University of Nebraska's next president, but if a bill heard in the legislature Thursday passes, the public may not have access to the hiring process until a final candidate has been selected.

The bill, LB 1018, from Senator Galen Hadley of Kearney would change the current law and give the Board of Regents the power to keep the identity of candidates for the University's top spot under wraps.

Right now, the law from 2007 says the board has to make the final four candidates for the position public. But Senator Hadley said many highly qualified candidates don't want their names to be public unless they know they have the job.

The Medical School Student Body President, Krupa Savalia, testified that students want the board to have the power to pick the best candidate.

"I'm convinced that this bill will position our university well if we are to continue being competitive in the academic marketplace," she said.

But the faculty at the Lincoln campus disagree.

"The purpose of openness is to allow for public consideration, reflection and reaction," said Faculty Senator John Bender, who testified against the bill.

One thing that came up a number of times in the hearing - a public vetting period for the last candidate so the public has a chance to give their opinion before a candidate is hired. However, that isn't in the bill that was heard Thursday. That would require a change.