Since it began in June, the search to replace Hank Bounds as president of the University of Nebraska has been conducted virtually behind closed doors. The secrecy is allowed because, in 2016, Nebraska lawmakers granted the NU system a special exemption from the state’s open records statutes. Because of the exemption, the NU Board of Regents can name just a single priority candidate from among the field of applicants for the position.
The search for NU president and campus chancellors previously required the regents to name three finalists and — in a gesture of openness and citizen participation — allowed the public to meet and assess each of the three finalists.
University officials and their supporters disliked the more open approach because they believed it deterred the best candidates from applying for NU’s top positions. Lawmakers agreed, and so the regents today are required only to name their “priority candidate,” who will meet the university’s students, faculty and supporters.
With only the priority candidate made public, Nebraskans’ role in the appointment of NU’s next president is limited, but that makes the job of vetting no less important.
For the next 30 days we will have the opportunity to meet the top candidate and gauge how his background and experience prepares him to lead what is the state’s most important institution and economic driver.
Walter “Ted” Carter, a retired Navy admiral, is the immediate past superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy. The NU Regents named him the priority candidate on Oct. 18. The 23-member Presidential Search Advisory Committee, which represents faculty, staff, students, administration, business, agriculture and other stakeholders, unanimously supported Carter’s candidacy.
Carter, will have his first public reviews Friday at the University of Nebraska at Kearney. Being Carter’s first stop in the vetting process puts UNK in an important position. What happens in Kearney could set the tone for the candidate’s subsequent appearances at campuses in Lincoln and Omaha. He’ll also appear in Curtis, North Platte, Grand Island, Beatrice, Nebraska City, Fremont, Columbus, Norfolk and Scottsbluff.
Two public sessions are planned Friday at UNK, and a third Kearney session will be Saturday morning.
Carter will meet UNK students and staff 11 a.m. to noon in the Nebraskan Student Union, and faculty from 2-3 p.m., also in the Nebraskan. At 9 a.m. Saturday, the public is invited to meet Carter at Cunningham’s on the Lake at 610 Talmadge St.
Carter and his wife Lynda will make dozens of appearances during the 30-day vetting sessions. Given the importance of the NU president in Nebraska, we hope that our state’s citizens take advantage of the opportunities to hear from the priority candidate and decide if he is the right pick to become NU’s eighth president.