Meet the mostly white, majority male, UChicago presidential search committees

Updated: Oct 26, 2020

The university’s search for its next chief decision-maker is defined by its lack of diversity, which goes against its own guidelines on searching for new faculty.

By Alexis Florence, Staff Reporter

Members of the Faculty Advisory Committee and Trustee Search Committee, which have been tasked with finding a new president for UChicago.


Of the 23 people leading the search for the next president of UChicago, only three identify as BIPoC and six identify as female.

An analysis done by Exploring Race Magazine found that the majority of members of the Trustee Search Committee and the Faculty Advisory Committee are white and/or male seriously lacking representation from populations already historically underrepresented in the university’s decision-making processes.

The race and gender make-up of the search committees violates the University’s own guidelines to identify and recruit new, diverse talent to the university.

“Be intentional about committee diversity. Diverse committees are more likely to identify diverse applicant pools, while committee homogeneity signals lack of institutional commitment to candidates. Consider diversity broadly, including diversity of rank, race, gender, discipline, etc.,” the guidelines on “Forming a faculty search committee” from the Office of the Provost state.

The only three members who identify as people of color include John Rogers and Alvaro Saieh of the trustee search committee and Waldo Johnson of the faculty committee.

Rogers leads an African-American run investment firm in Chicago as the Chairman and CEO of Ariel Investments. Saieh is a Chilean economist and businessman of Palestian descent. Johnson, a Black man, works as associate professor at the School of Social Service Administration whose research looks at dynamics of African-American families on the South Side.

In the cohort a majority 14 of the 23 members identify as both white and male, which are historically overrepresented demographics in University decision-making.

The Trustee search committee also boasts a number of high-paid figures in the financial industry, including David Rubenstein, the billionaire co-founder of the private equity firm Carlyle Group, and Debra Cafaro, the CEO of Ventras, a real estate investment trust. Nine out of 12 of the Trustee search committee members work in the financial sector.

The lack of diversity apparent on the committee is also in direct conflict with the University’s professed commitment to diversity and inclusion in emails sent to the university community, throughout a summer of racial unrest in America.

One such email sent June 26th of this year, from current president Robert Zimmer and provost Ka Yee Lee, expressed such commitments; the email stated that the University would proceed to “examine the data pertaining to the racial diversity of our faculty, students, and staff and identify ways to increase recruitment, retention, and advancement in areas where people of color are underrepresented.”

In response to an Exploring Race inquiry concerning a lack of diversity in the search committee, Chair of the university's Board of Trustees and the Trustee Search Committee Joseph Neubauer emphasized that the committee will be taking input from the entire University community and explained that diversity and inclusion will be important factors in the search for the next president.

“Gathering insight from our diverse University community about challenges facing the University, as well as important priorities for the University, will be an important part of this effort and critical to our success… Diversity and inclusion are core values of the University, and will be important priorities as we conduct this search,” Manier said in a written statement.

The timeline for appointing a UChicago’s 14th president is unclear. The new president will take the place of current president Robert Zimmer who will become chancellor of the University after the current academic year.

Correction: Oct. 26, 2020

An earlier version of the article misattributed UChicago's response to complaints about search committees lacking diversity. The statement was made by Joseph Neubauer, not the university's Officer of Communications Jeremy Manier.