The recent selection of Sheldon Drucker as Fairleigh Dickinson University’s seventh president was a surprise to the FDU community – for some it was a pleasant one; for others it was a questionable one.
Drucker, who has been serving the university for 17 years, took on the role of interim president of the university after the former president, the late J. Michael Adams, announced his retirement. Drucker was not considered a candidate in the presidential search process, but was chosen to be the university’s next president on April 23.
The announcement was made via email to the FDU community from FDU Board of Trustees Chair Patrick Zenner.
Three days after Drucker’s appointment was announced, Anthony Mell, president emeritus of the Metropolitan campus’ Student Government Association, addressed his concerns regarding the decision in an open letter to the university’s Board of Trustees. The letter was emailed to the Board of Trustees and also posted on the FDU SGA Metropolitan Campus Facebook page.
Mell wrote that the letter “is not intended to be a criticism of [the Board of Trustees] or the process, rather it is only a statement of the current emotional atmosphere of the students of [the Metropolitan] campus … that is intended to better inform [the Board of Trustees] and to give voice to those students.”
After doing so, the committee suggested finalists to FDU’s entire Board of Trustees. Drucker was not one of the finalists.
As Drucker explained in an April 25 note to the FDU community, “I didn’t initially aspire to become the permanent University president, and I did not present myself as a candidate in the search process.”
Though the search committee spearheaded the effort to find the university’s next president, the final decision was left to the Board of Trustees. “The decision to name a new President was not the student body’s or [the] search committee’s, but entirely the Board’s decision as legal guardians of the University to make,” said Palmer.
The two finalists in the presidential search, Jorge Haddock, dean of the School of Management at George Mason University, and Javier Cevallos, current president of Kutztown University, spoke at town hall meetings on both New Jersey campuses on April 17 and April 18, respectively. Both candidates addressed their future plans for FDU and answered questions from the audiences, which consisted of students and other FDU community members.
Since Drucker was not considered a finalist, students did not have the opportunity to question him, as they had been able to with Haddock and Cevallos.
“While President Drucker has spent nearly two decades at FDU he is virtually unknown to the student population so I believe it is justifiable for the students to question the credentials of a candidate they have not had the chance to question themselves nor with which they have any level of familiarity,” Mell wrote in the letter. “It is obvious that the board found President Drucker to be qualified, but now that the decision has been made, the students were deprived of an opportunity to determine that for themselves.”
Palmer also felt that the student body should have had more of a voice in Drucker’s selection. “I did mention in my letter that the students on both FDU campuses had no input or even knowledge of Sheldon Drucker as a candidate,” said Palmer. “The student body should be appreciative to President Drucker for his time, service and commitment to the University during his 17 years at Fairleigh Dickinson. Still as students we should know more regarding the qualifications and credentials of our now current President.”
After voicing their concerns to the Board of Trustees, Mell, Palmer and current College at Florham SGA President Gina Giurastante met with Board Vice Chair Robert Hallenbeck, University Provost Christopher Capuano and Zenner.
“During the meeting they expressed their regret that the search committee was not notified earlier of the decision to name President Drucker,” said Palmer. “They also pledged to further communicate to the FDU community the merits and qualifications President Drucker possesses to lead the University.”
A set of questions-and-answers prepared in advance of the meeting was made available to The Pillar. That document indicates that “there was still no clear front runner” following Haddock and Cevallos’ campus visits. “At that point, the Board determined that appointing either candidate would not be in the best interests of the University, and that terminating the search was appropriate,” according to the document.
In his April 25 note, Drucker wrote that, “when the search process unfolded and didn’t provide what the board felt would be the right fit for our institution and when the opportunity arose for me to serve in this role on a permanent basis, I jumped at the chance.”
According to Palmer, the 54th Senate of the Student Government Association will invite Drucker to an open meeting next fall, where students can address any further concerns or questions they may have.
At the Metropolitan campus, Mell said, “I can only hope that the board takes a lesson about student involvement in these types of decisions.”
In the letter, Mell addressed a number of concerns about the selection process, which excluded input from the student body with regards to Drucker’s appointment.
Mell wrote that the students’ concern “is not being generated by any form of malice or contempt but rather out of deep held love of this university and concern for its future.”
Daniel Palmer, president emeritus of the College at Florham’s SGA, also addressed his concerns, but in a private letter.
Mell and Palmer were both members of the Presidential Search Committee that was formed shortly after Adams announced his retirement. The committee, which was also comprised of trustees, faculty members and administrators, was expected to narrow down the applicant pool.