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SUNDEEP MALLADI/Herald photo

Less than a week after the University of Wisconsin announced three finalists for the permanent dean of students position, Chancellor John Wiley said Tuesday he "wished" he had more candidates to choose from.

Last Thursday, a university search and screen committee handed Wiley and Provost Patrick Farrell a list of three finalists for the position, including current Interim Dean of Students Lori Berquam.

Though Wiley said all three candidates were "excellent" choices, he expressed concern that one of the candidates might accept an offer from another university before UW completes its hiring process, leaving the university with only two choices.

"The feeling in general is that three is a bare minimum, and it's such a bare minimum that it's potentially dangerous," Wiley said in a phone interview Tuesday. "I wish we had more than three to choose from, but I think it'll work for us."

The situation is reminiscent of UW's provost search last semester. Initially given a list of three candidates to choose from, Wiley was left with only two choices after one finalist, Kumble Subbaswamy, accepted the provost position at the University of Kentucky.

The situation could arise again, as one potential finalist for the dean of students' position already backed out before visiting the UW campus, according to UW biochemistry professor David Nelson, faculty chair of the search and screen committee.

After trimming the list of potential dean of students candidates from 10 to six, Nelson said the committee invited the select group to UW for private interviews. However, one of the six, a woman whom Nelson declined to name, dropped herself from consideration.

And with a handful of large national universities — including The Ohio State University, University of Arizona, University of Washington and Washington State University — either actively searching for a new dean of students-type position or have it filled on an interim basis, the potential for a repeat of last semester's provost search is there.

Especially considering one of the UW dean of students finalists, Timothy Gordon, told The Badger Herald Tuesday he is currently considering positions at multiple universities.

"I'm interested in advancing my career in higher education," said Gordon, who is currently at Northwestern University. "I've been very selective in looking at institutions that philosophically connect to my beliefs and which I have found to be consistent in my values."

However, both Berquam and Brian Rose, the third dean of students' finalist, said UW remains their primary choice.

"My focus has been, and remains to be, here at UW," Berquam said. "The reality is that this is the only position I would like to get."

Rose, who is currently at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, said he is not actively "looking for work" and only applied for the UW position because someone who used to work here nominated him for the position.

"I have a job that I find interesting and I'm happy in," Rose said in a phone interview Tuesday. "But I'm ambitious. And if the opportunity is there to do a little more, I'm going to take it."

Though he acknowledged the downsides of having only three candidates, Farrell, who personally charged the search and screen committee with its task, said the emphasis should remain on the quality of the candidates, rather than the number.

"Traditionally, committees are told, 'We would like to see a minimum of three, but four or five is a little better,'" Farrell said in an interview. "But the emphasis is always, 'If you don't feel comfortable with this person, don't put them on the finalist list.'"

Farrell added that it is "always a concern" that a candidate might drop out of consideration before an institution makes its final selection, but said it "hopefully won't happen" with UW's dean of students search.

The search continues next semester when UW hopes to have all three candidates visit campus at either the "end of January or early February," according to UW Communications.

Wiley said he and Farrell would likely make a decision within a "few days or a week or so" of the third and final candidate's campus visit.