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Four search firms line up at UMW
UMW won't use the search firm that recruited ousted President William Frawley

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Date published: 8/16/2007

BY JEFF BRANSCOME

The University of Mary Washington will not rehire the search firm that recruited ousted President William Frawley.

Representatives from Korn/Ferry International were "very understanding," UMW board of visitors Rector Bill Poole said yesterday. "Of course, they were embarrassed and felt awkward" about the end result of the Frawley search.

But Poole doesn't blame the firm for the outcome.

Ten months into his job, Frawley was fired in April after he was charged with driving under the influence twice in two days. He is scheduled to face those charges in Fredericksburg on Sept. 18, and in Fairfax Sept. 21.

"While we were pleased with Korn/Ferry's initial search, we just felt it would be awkward to ask them to participate again, based on the outcome of the last search," Poole said.

The school's five-member executive committee met privately for an hour yesterday to discuss the search for its next leader.

After the meeting, Poole said the school received proposals Friday from four search firms. At least three of them were among the 11 that put in bids for the same job in 2004.

The university hopes to choose a firm before a faculty meeting next Thursday. The search will be discussed in more detail then, Poole said.

The names of the firms up for consideration will not be made public until after the school awards a contract, Acting President Rick Hurley said.

UMW's private foundation, which issued the request for proposals, asked the firms to include a list of unsuccessful searches since July 2003.

In response to a question submitted by a potential bidder, UMW assured the consultants that they won't be disqualified for failures. For example, the questioner mentioned a president's departure due to "substance abuse related issues."

"A firm's overall performance, rather than a single event, will be considered," UMW told the bidders.

The proposals also must explain how presidential candidates will be screened and evaluated.

In short, the firms "tell us how good they are," Poole said.

The school could've received a free search--with the exception of travel expenses--from Korn/Ferry, which charged $75,000 for its first search. That's because Frawley was president for less than a year.

Poole, however, said it's common for universities to select a different firm after a previous search went sour.

Still, the makeup of the search committee will be the same. Like last time, UMW will appoint two faculty representatives.

Generally speaking, the search firm recommends several presidential candidates to that committee, which interviews them. The committee then makes a recommendation to the board of visitors, which does the hiring.

The board hopes to hire someone during the upcoming academic year.

"We may get lucky and find a lot of people who are extremely qualified," Poole said.

After yesterday's meeting opened to the public, the board discussed the agenda for its September meeting, which includes a presentation by the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges.

At some point, board of visitors member Daniel Steen said, it might be a good idea to ask the association to discuss how to conduct an effective presidential search.

"After what we went through, I can't hear enough," he said.

Jeff Branscome: 540/374-5402
Email: jbranscome@freelancestar.com