Was Hibbs’ presidential search worthwhile?

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Photo by Patrick Vitale

Dr. Hibbs was appointed after an approximately year-long search on the part of the University’s Board of Trustees. After only 14 months since his Nov. 1, 2019 inauguration, President Hibbs’ resignation was made public on Jan. 11, 2021 and caught many off guard. 

Hibbs has chosen to keep the reasons behind this decision private. His shortened presidency and unknown reasons for resigning have raised questions on campus. Questions regarding his short presidency, which lasted a little more than a year, and his unknown reasons for resigning have been circulated around campus. 

The presidential search for Dr. Hibbs began in summer 2018, leading to his appointment over a year later. According to executive Vice President, John Plotts, the University “retained the services of a national executive search firm called WittKeiffer.”

Wittkeiffer’s website states that they have “conducted more than 130 president searches for colleges and universities in the last decade alone.”

Executive search teams tend to cost tens of thousands of dollars, between travel expenses, background investigation fees, and advertising.

Given the short time that Hibbs maintained his position, can the effort, time, and resources poured into the presidential search be justified? As the president of our university, did Hibbs succeed in fulfilling his duties? 

Since the presidency is so closely tied to UD’s public image, it is a highly important position which deserves extensive research.

The role of the president involves promoting “the brand of the university. His or her job is to raise awareness largely for the purpose of increasing enrollment and raising money,” said Plotts.

During his time as president, Hibbs has certainly made significant contributions to UD’s brand and finances. 

In the 2019-20 academic year, Hibbs secured new grants and endowments, and had a record breaking North Texas Giving Day. 

In addition to the financial support secured, Hibbs’ leadership has set in place plans for the guiding UD in the future. Hibbs has been active during his short presidency and it seems clear that he is dedicated to the well-being of the UD community.

The UD website says that Hibbs “worked with the Diocese of Dallas to establish a Homiletics Center at UD and initiated a new strategic plan for the university, the first such plan in nearly a decade.” 

Hibbs has undertaken various presidential initiatives including his Presidential Conversation series, expansion of the civil rights office, and increased support for first-generation programs and funding.

Hibbs has also used his presidential powers to shorten the approval process for the Student Leaders for Racial Solidarity, which had been dragging on since last semester. As explained in his Jan. 5 letter, Hibbs’ support for this club is grounded in “ the spirit of justice and reconciliation to which we are called.”

Furthermore, Hibbs seems to have considered his resignation decision very seriously, again displaying his concern for UD.

Hibbs’ decision was the product of much careful consideration. In an email sent to the UD community on Jan. 24 he stated that: “After many weeks of prayer, reflection and conversation with family, friends and trusted advisers, I have decided to resign as president of UD effective summer 2021.”

If Hibbs has discerned that his abilities can be better suited to serving UD in a non-presidential role, his resignation will be beneficial to UD just as his presidency was.

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