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The University at Buffalo could have a new president by summer, ending a selection process that will be cloaked in secrecy, the man who will pick the presidential search committee said Thursday.

"I don't think I will reveal the names of the committee at all," said M. Robert Koren, chairman of the UB Council. "The committee will be composed and acting in secrecy."

Koren also said he will be the sole spokesman throughout the selection process. Would-be candidates, he explained, sometimes withdraw if their names inadvertently are leaked to the media.

Koren, a Buffalo attorney, served on two previous presidential search committees at UB -- one that selected Robert L. Ketter and another that chose the current president, Steven B. Sample.

Sample announced Dec. 5 that he plans to leave Buffalo as of March 31 to head the private University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

Koren would not divulge any clues about the type of candidate the committee will seek to lead UB into the 21st century -- whether, for example, he or she will be research- and community-relations oriented, as Sample was, or more classroom-oriented.

"We simply want the best available," he said.

The search committee, which Koren expects to be formed shortly after classes resume in January, will include members of the UB Council. Koren said he does not anticipate that the group will exceed 15 to 20 people.

He said he already has asked various faculty, staff, student and alumni groups to submit names of people they would like included on the committee. Shortly after the beginning of the year, advertisements on the opening will be placed in all major educational journals and in other publications.

Those ads will have plenty of company: Sample remarked during the UB Council's monthly meeting Thursday that the current vacancy rate for university presidents in the United States is the highest it has been in this century.

He also noted that the turnover rate during the past two years among presidents of universities belonging to the prestigious Association of American Universities is more than 40 percent.

But Koren doesn't think that will pose a problem.

A short list of candidates should be determined by late spring, he said. The search committee would give that list to the UB Council, which, in turn, would nominate one individual for consideration by the trustees of the State University of New York.

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