We respectfully disagree

Readers are asking us why they haven’t seen articles or photos from all the forums with Lock Haven University’s candidates for its new president.

Four candidates were chosen and came to campus this past week to speak with students, faculty, administrators and alumni.

On Feb. 28, The Express printed a report from a student forum with one of the candidates.

However, the university subsequently asked that no other forums be covered by The Express, and we obliged.

The forums were closed to the public, and the university did not want any reports from them in the newspaper.

The Express’ Feb. 28 story from the first forum on Feb. 27 “compromised the integrity of the interview process,” university officials told the newspaper.

The student newspaper, The Eagle Eye, covered the forums and, in fact, its editor was writing for The Express after having been a journalism intern last fall.

We respect the university’s viewpoint.

But we must disagree with it.

We must, because of our basic principles and our strong desire to keep our readers, and the general public, informed about decisions that impact their lives, especially those decisions involving publicly funded institutions.

The hiring of a new university president is no small thing for our region.

We believe that students, alumni and staff are members of our community.

Students, in fact, make up one-third of the population of the City of Lock Haven, and if they are welcome to attend a forum and ask questions of a candidate, then the university has already opened that forum to many of our local residents.

Why not allow the community media to report the give-and-take between students and candidates?

Is there a curtain of sorts between town and gown?

The search for the right person for the job was conducted by a committee of faculty, staff, administration, alumni and students, chaired by Guy Graham, a longtime member and past president of the university’s council of trustees.

RPA Inc. was hired as the search consulting firm.

The four candidates are Dr. Rodney Hanley, Dr. Brian DePoy, Robert Pignatello and Dr. Kimberly Johnston.

The Express did publish front-page articles on each candidate as they were announced on the university’s web site last week and early this past week.

After yesterday’s last candidate visit, the search committee — reportedly with input from students, faculty, staff and alumni who were allowed to attend the forums — expects to narrow the field to two candidates.

Those two candidates will be recommended to the university council of trustees on Monday.

If approved, the names of the two candidates will be sent to the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education Board of Governors.

The board of governors will interview the two candidates and then it will select the 15th president of Lock Haven University.

Current President Dr. Michael Fiorentino Jr. will retire this month.

Dr. Donna Wilson, LHU provost, will serve as interim president for the rest of the semester.

It is hoped that a new president will be able to start July 1.

We hope the forums involved robust dialogue, and that the hiring takes place smoothly. We look forward to the new president reaching out to the community, just as all LHU presidents have done in the past.