No new president: what went wrong?

Last week we were supposed to find out who the new Ryerson president will be. Instead we got more questions.

After Friday’s announcement we know that Sheldon Levy will remain in Ryerson’s top job for up to two more years. We now also know that Alan Shepard, president and vice-chancellor of Concordia University, turned down the offer to replace him.

In this Apr. 2, 2014 file photo, Ryerson president Sheldon Levy addresses students. (Courtesy of Ryersonian Staff)

In this Apr. 2, 2014 file photo, Ryerson president Sheldon Levy addresses students. (Courtesy of Ryersonian Staff)

What all of this means needs to be discussed. Someone needs to be held responsible.

A presidential search committee, which spent 13 months and thousands of dollars looking for a success or, failed.

This has had a negative impact on the reputation of the university and, perhaps more importantly, it has at least temporarily halted the university’s recent rapid evolution. There’s a question of if Levy can make any substantial decisions in his remaining time and we don’t know exactly when we will have a new president.

Ryerson University is a growing force in the Ontario post-secondary world. Gone are the days where the school was derisively called “Rye High” behind its back.

But now, the search committee’s failure has created doubts about their process and an alarming precedent for the next committee.

We all know Levy cannot stay here forever.

In December 2013, when Levy announced he would retire, the tone in the administration was almost entirely a sombre one.

This was the man who had done so much to build up Ryerson since he took the reins in 2005. From the new IMA building to Maple Leaf Gardens, by 2013 – well into Levy’s tenure – the university and city had already branded him a city builder.

Filling Levy’s shoes must be an intimidating prospect.

Moving forward we can hope that a new presidential selection commitee will succeed. But before we do that we need the old one to be transparent about the mistakes it made.

We need to be assured that this won’t happen next time.

Until then, there’s only uncertainty: was the selection commitee’s process flawed? Was there a second option? Did the headhunters not cast a wide enough net? Was the difficutly in finding a replacment directly related to the salary offered? Is there something about Ryerson that is keeping prospective replacements away?

We need answers.

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