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Anyone Want to Be a College President? There Are (Many) Openings

“Finding a president is a big complicated process because everyone in the university constituency cares about that selection, and getting it right is important to everyone,” said John Isaacson, the chair of Isaacson, Miller, a firm that has helped with searches for many top schools. “It’s a process that takes time.”

U.C.L.A. and Yale did not respond to inquiries about their presidential searches.

Some potential presidents are as wary as schools. Dr. Dirks, the former U.C. Berkeley chancellor, said he had heard of candidate pools shrinking as prospective presidents pondered the jobs’ pitfalls, despite mansion-like campus residences and salaries that can reach seven figures.

“It doesn’t quite have the allure it used to have,” said Dr. DiSalvo, the Endicott College president, who runs a training program for aspiring presidents.

A persistent challenge is that presidents must contend with so many constituents — students, parents, faculty members, other university employees, public officials, donors, alumni, athletic program sponsors — with competing interests.

“The position becomes one in which it makes no difference what you do, someone is going to be after you,” said Michael M. Crow, Arizona State University’s president. (“Boy, your alums, if they don’t like something going on, especially in athletics, they’re on it,” Richard B. Myers, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who later served as president of Kansas State University, said with a chuckle.)

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