Tuesday, February 13, 2007

UVSC faculty voice their opinion on VP hire

E-mails are piling up in UVSC faculty inboxes lately, and they aren't forwarding the latest funny movie on YouTube. Instead faculty are buzzing over President Bill Sederburg's upcoming hiring
of a new VP of Academic Affairs. Here is the one e-mail that is getting the most attention:

Date: Fri, 09 Feb 2007 12:56:21 -0700
Subject: Re: VPAA Search, serious concerns about the process and criteria
Dear President Sederberg,

Yesterday I sent you my email comment about Bill Evenson as the most qualified candidate, in my opinion, for the position.

Your message this morning laying out the criteria you intend to employ as you make the final decision leaves me wondering about the criteria I had in mind as I read the vitae of the candidates and listened to their presentations.

You noted the following: "The first is the candidate's concurrence with the mutually-developed institutional mission and vision identified through the Strategic Planning Process, PBA process, master plans, and institutional work plans. The second is the candidate's compatibility and partnership with our institutional leadership team. Finally, given the scope and amount of work facing UVSC and Academic Affairs, the candidate's ability to provide the dynamic, energetic leadership required."

As a faculty member for whom this appointment is crucial (as I teach and do research and build academic programs through curriculum and hiring -- all directly affected by this Vice President), I have a few thoughts that I hope will expand your set of criteria:

1. What is the candidate's experience with academic freedom? Does the candidate have a record of dealing with difficult academic freedom issues? Can the candidate speak with depth and insight about academic freedom? In terms of two of the candidates rather tepid responses to questions about academic freedom, and in light of Bill Evenson's robust discussion of the issue and his experience with and active membership in the AAUP, he is the clear choice by this criterium.

2. Is the candidate a scholar engaged in research in his or her discipline? Was the Ph.D. a means to a scholarly or to an administrative end? Does he or she understand what it is faculty members do? What is the scholarly record? Is the candidate equally interested in working as a professor in a discipline and in working in administration? Did the candidate emphasize this kind of academic work in his or her
presentation? Bill Evenson is far above the other two candidates in this area.

3. Can the candidate relate well with fellow faculty members (I'm phrasing this differently from your "dynamic, energetic leadership" on purpose, to indicate that university faculty see this issue through a very different lens.) Another way of asking this is whether the candidate has the academic/scholarly experience to lead a faculty of increasing intellectual ability or whether the candidate will be at a
lower academic level than the faculty he or she is required to lead and thus always at a disadvantage. Does the candidate read widely inside and outside his or her discipline (and I'm not talking about books about leadership). Again, no question but that Bill Evenson is the better candidate.

4. Does your sense for the "candidate's compatibility and partnership with our institutional leadership team" take into account the Deans of HASS, Science and Health, General Academics, Business, etc. -- the Academic Deans? Does it take into account the Chairs of all the academic departments? If you were to ask these Deans and Department Chairs (and they are certainly critical parts of the "institutional leadership team") which of the three candidates was most compatible with them, you
would find overwhelming support for Bill Evenson.

5. Will the candidate bring skills into the administration that are different from the ones already present? Will he or she broaden the scope of the administration or simply add more of what we already have? It seems to me that our current strengths are in reaching out to our legislators and to the public. Will the new VPAA be able to complement that with outreach to other academic vice presidents at the U of U and
USU, to the strictly academic constituency that responds best to the speech and arguments and demeanor of a fellow scholar and teacher? Candidates Hitch and Hanks have good skill, but they seem to overlap largely with those already present on campus. Bill Evenson has many of those skills himself, and also the important academic skills that will represent us well in the company of other academic vice presidents.

Thank you for considering these thoughts. I'm sending them also to many of our colleagues across campus, hoping there will be the kind of continuing discussion that will bring us the best possible VPAA.

all the best,
Scott Abbott

Clearly Big Bill's e-mail from earlier in the day struck a chord with Abbott and other faculty members...and perhaps it was a line like this "When the decision is announced, I ask everyone to rally around whomever I select." that rubbed them the wrong way.

This is where it gets surreal. Monday morning on nearly every bulletin board on campus you could find a cartoon featuring Sederburg in a track suit with the message "Follow Your Leader". There are some different versions of this poster...all with VPs like Cory Duckworth, Val Peterson, and Val Hale....all with the same "Follow Your Leader" message.

If you get a little Orwellian shudder going up and down your spine, that is totally normal. Just take another swig of Victory Vodka and throw Brad Cook's legacy down the memory hole.


Anonymous said...

I'm glad someone else noticed this 1984-esque conjunction. We saw these posters (hanging all around the LA hallway the Friday after all the VPAA email upset), and we couldn't help but think, "this must be some kind of satirical smear campaign because certainly our administrators would never approve of something so Orwellian retro fascist, so Freudian insecure, so overtly and excessively out of touch with students and faculty, with our University mission, and even with basic professionalism. This MUST be satire!" But, no. Each poster had the Student Life sticker of approval on it. Still, we haven't seen these posters for a while (we think people are collecting and trading them: "I'll give you three Karl Worthingtons for a Bill Sederburg").

The Pipeline said...

The Pipeline asked around and was told that the posters were promotions for the PACE walking challenge that is going on. Something about top administrators being strapped with pedometers. Too bad the posters say nothing about the program. Just "Support Your Leader".

The Pipeline loves the idea of people collecting these things...but we haven't seen any Karl Worthingtons out there. The Val Peterson one is scary enough.