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Top Choice to Lead UC System Declines Post : Education: 11th-hour decision by Ohio State head stuns regents and sparks criticism that process was botched.


In the wake of Gee's decision, some national higher education leaders said his rejection of the UC job sends a troubling message, particularly to other public universities.

"When the most prestigious public university system in the world doesn't get its first choice, that's--how shall I say it?--embarrassing," said Robert H. Atwell, chairman of the American Council on Education in Washington. "This is very unfortunate for the University of California."

Kerr, the UC president emeritus, said he worried that the loss of Gee would "poison the atmosphere" of the search committee.

"There's going to be a lot of suspicion--who leaked the information--and a certain amount of finger-pointing," he said.

Several people, including Kerr, speculated that the regents--who had broken with more than three decades of tradition by picking someone with no connections to UC--might now be more likely to choose a candidate from within the UC system.

"There might be an inclination to say, 'Well, maybe it's safer to work with people we already know well already . . . somebody who already has a commitment to UC," Kerr said. "People could be a little more shy of going outside."

Khachigian acknowledged that the search committee had begun with a "high interest" in finding an outside candidate, but would not confirm that the feeling had changed.

"We have excellent people we can promote from inside who would be excellent presidents," she said.

The loss of Gee prompted some to call for a more open search process.

"This whole fiasco could have been avoided had the process been more open," said Jess Bravin, a member of the student advisory committee on presidential selection and a law student at UC Berkeley.

"If more people had been involved in this process, these kinds of questions would have arisen much earlier. . . . Maybe it's time for them to reconsider the way they do business."

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