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EMU regents elect new president after closed search

Paulette Parker / Michigan Radio

After a closed search regarded by some Eastern Michigan University faculty as "too secretive," the EMU Board of Regents elected the school's 23rd president at a special meeting Friday.

James M. Smith was selected out of 81 applicants after a national search process that began in April 2015.

The pool was narrowed down by a 10-person Search Advisory Committee, made up of regents, faculty representatives and administrators.

In October, EMU's Faculty Senate sent a letter to the regents urging them to amend the search process to give faculty a primary role and to hold open public forums for the final candidates.

Smith says he is aware that the process was criticized.

"The candidates that enter into a closed search, I think even have more love or respect for the institution because we know there's going to be tension surrounding that process," he said.

The vote comes a week after EMU decided to sever ties with the Education Achievement Authority – a decision many students and faculty had long hoped for. 

"Sometimes you do things and they don't work. And then you have to be bright enough to know to exit," Smith said.

He says he's willing to work to repair the relationship between faculty and administration.

"I will certainly understand that some people will say, 'I didn't like this in the past,' and I will be pretty candid in saying, 'but I wasn't here in the past,'" Smith said.

The university will pay Smith an annual salary of $400,000.

He will replace Donald Loppnow, who has been serving as interim president since December. Smith will officially take office July 1.

"The game plan for me is to learn people, learn programs, learn the key players and try to assess the situation as it is and think about how to move it forward to that next place," Smith said.

Paulette is a digital media reporter and producer for Michigan Public. She started as a newsroom intern at the station in 2014 and has taken on various roles in that time, including filling in as an on-air host.
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