To Herman Van Rompuy, President of the Administrative Council of the College of Europe and Chair of the Selection Committee for the new Rector.
We, the undersigned, who share a bond with the College of Europe, express our concern and regret about the way the procedure to recruit a new Rector of the College has been handled and communicated.
What we say in this letter is no commendation of or rejection of any candidate for the position. It is instead a call for the College of Europe to abide by the very values it expects of its teachers and its students, including a respect for due process and the rule of law, and a commitment to transparency and accountability.
The job advertisement states: “Candidates […] should demonstrate substantial academic qualities in the field of European studies, a proven experience of the administration and management of an academic structure of some complexity, and should be able to combine the pursuit of academic excellence at international level with sound budgetary management. […] The rectorship is a full-time position, which excludes the pursuit of any other professional activity or academic affiliation. It requires permanent residence in Bruges and a regular presence in Natolin.”
We all have our own personal views when it comes to the ideal profile of the next Rector of the College of Europe, and as to whether a more political or more academic holder of the position would be desirable, but that does not matter here. The criteria according to which the candidates are judged are clear and must be adhered to.
We understand that a first round of interviews for the position was conducted in November 2019, and that the candidates from that round are still officially in the running. Since then there has been no formal communication about the process, nor any new timetable laid out.
Media reports as well as the Decision of the European Commission suggest that the College of Europe has already made its pick, and has settled on a candidate whose CV is no doubt impressive, but who does not meet the criteria laid out by the College by any measure.
We do not understand how any candidate could be considered if they do not meet at least most of the published criteria.
We believe that in order for this process to retain credibility, and for the new Rector to be able to count on the support and respect of the College community as well as the outside world, the College should stick to its criteria (or publish new ones, following consultation with staff, students and alumni), and relaunch the procedure with a clear and published timetable.
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