This issue of VOX contains a tribute to James Brooke, professor of mathematics and statistics, and an article urging an open process for selecting our next president. On the one hand, an account of the life and intellectual interests of an esteemed and dedicated colleague; on the other, a rational plea for a presidential search that includes public presentations by shortlisted candidates.
What, you might ask, is the connection between these two points of view?
One possible link can be framed in terms of further questions: what is the function of a University? Is it to enable the advancement and dissemination of shared learning? Is this the primrose path to excellence in our work? And is this goal best served by collegial processes that apply not only to faculty but to the appointment of senior administrators? Or does secrecy in selecting a president better serve the cause of excellence? Not total secrecy perhaps, but a process that eliminates the possibility of faculty, students, and staff from attending any public lectures by those aspiring to the president’s house, asking questions, and evaluating their worthiness for the job.
Which of these two alternatives would the late Professor Brooke favour, and why? In light of his established record for pedagogical and research excellence and his opposition to bureaucratic narrowness, it seems likely that he would favour an open search process. For him, secrecy does not suit a public institution whose goal is to share knowledge, not to privatize it. Bearing in mind his 30 years of service at the University of Saskatchewan, we might do well to listen to his voice.