CHARLESTON -- The next time West Virginia University picks its new president, it is going to need to get permission first.

New rules adopted by the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission Aug. 23 require the state's universities to first submit their search procedures to the commission for approval before they can begin looking for a president or head administrator.

The commission itself will not pick a president. That's still the job of a university's board of governors. But it must approve the procedures the board will use in its search.

The rule change comes only a few months after the ouster of former WVU President Mike Garrison, who was appointed to the position through a search process that critics claimed was tainted with political favoritism. The university's board of governors denied the accusations.

Higher Education Chancellor Brian Noland said the changes were not about WVU but rather came about because of new legislation passed by the state Legislature earlier this year. The new law requires the state's universities and technical colleges to make several changes in the way they do business. For example, one revision allowed technical colleges formerly affiliated with the state's universities to break away and become independent campuses.

Noland said the new requirements for presidential searches were more about keeping up with the times than addressing any particular situation.

"The landscape of the president has changed and the Legislature felt it was important for us to review our policies and update them so we can find the best candidate, and more importantly, provide the level of compensation to attract the best candidate," he said.

The new rules make the search process more open than it has been in the past, making it more deliberate and participatory, Noland said.

The WVU Board of Governors appointed C. Peter Magrath as interim president of the university Aug. 1. The rule change will be in place as WVU hunts for a permanent replacement for Garrison. It will also affect Fairmont State University, which is searching for a new president.

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