Anyone Want to Be a College President? There Are (Many) Vacancies

“Finding a president is a big, complicated process because everyone in the college constituency cares about that selection, and it’s important for everyone to get it right,” said John Isaacson, president of Isaacson, Miller, a firm that has helped with searches for many top schools. “It’s a process that takes time.”

UCLA and Yale did not respond to questions about their presidential searches.

Some potential presidents are as cautious as schools. Dr. Dirks, the former chancellor of UC Berkeley, said he had heard that the candidate pool was shrinking as potential presidents considered the pitfalls of the jobs, despite mansion-like campus residences and salaries that can reach into the seven figures.

“It doesn’t have the appeal it used to have,” said Dr. DiSalvo, president of Endicott College, who directs a training program for aspiring presidents.

A persistent challenge for presidents is that they have to deal with so many different parties: students, parents, faculty members, other university employees, government officials, donors, alumni, sponsors of sports programs, all with their own interests.

“The position becomes one where no matter what you do, somebody’s going to come after you,” said Michael M. Crow, president of Arizona State University. (“Guys, if they don’t like something, especially athletics, they’re going to go and fix it themselves,” Richard B. Myers, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who later became president of Kansas State University, said with a laugh.)

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