Thursday, February 15, 2007

Sederburg names new VPAA

This morning Utah Valley State president Bill Sederburg announced his pick for the vacant VPAA position. Here is the e-mail he sent out to employees this morning:

I am pleased to announce my selection of Dr. Elizabeth J. Hitch as the Vice President for Academic Affairs. Dr. Hitch joins UVSC from the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse where she currently is serving as Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs. For your reference, a copy of the press release with additional information about Dr. Hitch and UW-LaCrosse is attached.

As I reviewed the finalists, I decided that Dr. Hitch provides us with the experience needed to move the institution to the next level. She is the academic leader of one of the most respected regional universities in America. She oversees a school of 20 graduate programs, with impressive graduate programs in education, science and health, and business. She has experience as an academic administrator with having served for seven years as a Dean and five years as a Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs. Finally, I felt that I and our leadership team would enjoy working with her and gaining from her experience, enthusiasm and leadership.

Dr. Hitch will assume this assignment July 1, 2007; however, she will be on-campus several times between now and then. Plans for a reception late afternoon of Friday, March 9 are underway; more information on this will be forthcoming.

I greatly appreciate the fine work of the search committee lead by Dr. Numsiri Kunakemakorn and Dr. Ian Wilson. I encourage all members of the UVSC community to join with me in warmly welcoming Dr. Hitch to campus and offering her your enthusiastic support. I am confident she will provide outstanding support and leadership to Academic Affairs and Utah Valley State College.

Of course this announcement will no doubt launch a thousand e-mails, with a very vocal majority of faculty having been such staunch supporters of in-house candidate Bill Evenson. You can count on some backlash.

The Pipeline has heard that at a recent Dean's council meeting the deans expressed their unanimous support for Evenson. At the end Sederburg stood up and said something to the effect of "well it sounds like you all agree that all three candidates are qualified, so it doesn't matter who I choose."

It is The Pipeline's humble opinion that Sederburg had to hire a woman for this job. When he came in three years ago he received flack for "re-assigning" female VPs and since then hiring white males for top positions. This perception that Big Bill took care of the boys no doubt rubbed plenty of faculty the wrong way. The fact that so many faculty members backed Evenson indicates that he was supremely qualified, so much so that professors who might normally have preferred to see a woman in this post chose Evenson over Hitch. This probably also speaks to how unimpressed many professors felt during last week's meet-and-greets with Hitch.

Hitch had been recently censured by her own faculty senate at her current position at University of Wisconsin at La Crosse. To her credit Hitch was quite up front about the incident, which she said came about because of a botched hiring process that hadn't followed school procedure. She told professors to feel free to call the faculty senate president at UW-L and ask about the censure.

What has to be in the back of most professors' minds is how Hitch will handle the often sticky issue of academic freedom, particularly in an environment that has had its share of town-and-gown issues. It is clear from the e-mails that have been circulating around that the faculty at UVSC are wary of someone who appears to be more of an administrator and less of a scholar. Will she fight for academic freedom or will she bend to pressure from donors, community members, and legislators? We will have to see.

It will be interesting to see if a real fuss is made over the issue before Hitch steps up in July. Sederburg has made it clear that he wants the troops to rally behind his choice. Who will stick their neck out?

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