LARAMIE, Wyoming — The University of Wyoming Board of Trustees on Friday appointed Dick McGinity interim president to deal with a backlog of vacant, high-level positions at the college, in its first meeting since President Bob Sternberg's surprise resignation after less than five months on the job.
McGinity's appointment — approved on a 10-2 vote — was effective immediately and for an undefined length of time. McGinity was UW's interim vice president for academic affairs and had been informally performing the president's duties since Sternberg announced his resignation about three weeks ago.
With his new appointment, McGinity's annual salary will increase from $240,000 to $375,000.
Trustees President Dave Bostrom said an interim president is necessary to fill top administrative vacancies, including the provost position. During Sternberg's short tenure, five top administers and three deans left their jobs.
"Right now we have a number of administrative positions, deans and others that are being actively recruited, if you will, searched for, and we got to get that done," Bostrom said. "All of them are approved by the board upon recommendation of the president. So we got to have one (interim president) in place."
McGinity's appointment occurred after the board met in private for more than three hours on personnel and property matters.
In a statement released by the university, McGinity said he will do his best to lead the state's only public four-year university.
When the board last met on Nov. 14, it was surprised by Sternberg's resignation, effective Dec. 31.
Bostrom said Friday the board has not yet discussed how it will go about searching for a new president. He says that discussion will occur in January when the board next meets.
Under a state law enacted last winter, the board can conduct its search entirely in secret if it chooses.
"The board is going to have to become comfortable with whatever process we decide," Bostrom said. "There are opinions on all sides, I'm sure, and those are going to become public as time goes on.
The UW Faculty Senate has said it wants the names of finalists publicized well in advance of a decision by the regents. It also wants the finalists to meet with faculty and make a public presentation to the community.
State schools Superintendent Cindy Hill, an ex-officio member of the trustees, voiced concern Friday that the board will lose "credibility if we don't follow an open process when searching for our president."
The search that resulted in Sternberg's hiring last winter was done mostly in secret until the trustees were forced to release the finalist names because of threatened legal action from media.
The controversy over that search led the Legislature to pass a law allowing president searches by any Wyoming college without ever identifying the candidates. Under the law, the only name the public may hear is when the new president is chosen and announced. College boards can conduct an entirely open search if they wish.
Critics have pointed to the quick Sternberg exit as evidence that closed searches don't work, while supporters of confidential searches say there's no relation between Sternberg's short stay and how the search that resulted in his selection was conducted.