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Presidential Search Committee Announces Public Hearings

Chris Ayers
An emotional President Pershing speaks at a sexual assault protest in the MEB parking lot on Friday, Nov 4, 2016.

Four months after University of Utah President David Pershing’s initial announcement that he would step down, the Presidential Search Committee has released an update on their search for his replacement.

On Sunday, the group announced three public meetings in the second week of September. Committee members are hoping to hear input from students, community members and the general public regarding some of the qualifications they want to see in the new president.

The first meeting is on Sept. 11 from 3 to 4 p.m. in the Eccles Institute of Human Genetics. Two more meetings will be held the following day, Sept. 12, from 3 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 8 p.m. in the S.J. Quinney College of Law Moot Courtroom.

Once the search committee has gathered public opinion, it plans to create a final “position announcement” with a job description that it will use when recruiting candidates.

The committee will screen the collected nominations and applications, then hold interviews with top candidates. Of this group of applicants, three to five finalists are submitted to the Board of Regents, which will make the final selection.

The Presidential Search Committee is comprised of 24 members, including members on the Board of Regents, Board of Trustees, students, community figures and U administration, faculty and staff. It is tasked with searching the country for the best candidates to lead the U. The committee is co-chaired by Harris Simmons, vice chair of the Board of Regents, and U Board of Trustees Chair H. David Burton.

Pershing announced in May that he planned to step down after a public controversy emerged over the leadership of the Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI).

HCI Director and CEO Mary Beckerle was unexpectedly dismissed by Pershing in April, which was met with confusion and anger among researchers, patients, faculty and staff. In addition to the public protest, the Huntsman family spoke out against the decision. Beckerle was reinstated one week after her dismissal.

Former dean of U’s School of Medicine and University of Utah Health CEO Vivian Lee, who was involved in the decision to dismiss Beckerle, resigned in the aftermath of the controversy. Lorris Betz is currently serving as interim CEO and medical school dean in Lee’s place. Lee’s permanent replacement is expected to be chosen following the selection of a new university president.

According to the Utah System of Higher Education, the committee will select finalists for the position by Spring 2018. Once a president is selected, Pershing will return to a faculty position at the University of Utah.

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