SACUA meets to discuss the search for the provost, Schlissel’s position as chairman of the search committee

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The Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs met virtually on Monday to discuss the search for a new provost. The meeting included a listening session moderated by University President Mark Schlissel and the President’s Selection and Nomination Advisory Group to discuss the search and nomination process.

The University is currently in to treat to select and appoint a new rector and executive vice-president for academic affairs for a three-year term, after the current rector Dr Susan M. Collins‘term ends in June 2022. Schlissel has asked SACUA members to participate in the marshal search process as the exam application deadline draws near.

“I would love your advice on what kind of experience and skills we should be looking for in our next marshal,” Schlissel said. “What kind of values ​​and temperament should we be looking for? … And second, what are the set of issues, challenges and opportunities that we see on the horizon that the new provost should… be ready to take on?

In addition to discussions from fellow SACUA members on the future provost’s commitment to DCI, transparency and excellence, art and design professor Rebekah Modrak said her ideal candidate for the provost would be someone. ‘one who is not a sexual predator. His words refer to the former provost Martin Philbert, who has been accused of sexual harassment by more than 20 students and staff at the University. Philbert was approved as provost in 2017 and was removed from office in 2020.

“I’m pretty sure the committee in 2017, the majority of this committee didn’t want a sexual predator either,” Modrak said. “And yet, they still managed to hire one. So I would like to know what the committee is doing to take more precautions this time.

In January 2020, the law firm WilmerHale conducted an independent investigation into the allegations against Philbert and found “significant evidence” that Philbert engaged in sexual harassment for at least 15 years while employed by the university. The report also revealed numerous instances where University staff and administration have received information about Philbert’s misconduct, although they do not understand the “seriousness or pervasiveness” of the Philbert violation. .

Responding to the concern raised by Modrak, Schlissel said that each member of the search committee had been carefully selected and vetted, a requirement that would apply to all provost candidates equally.

“All applicants will be (rigorously) vetted by reviewing files,” Schlissel said. “Looking at the DPSS files, then the usual external background check… We have already started doing this with all the leadership appointments on campus. “

Schlissel concluded his time with the assembly by providing a COVID-19 briefing, crediting the university’s high vaccination raten records for helping to maintain a manageable level of infections within the campus community. He also discussed the possibility of requiring booster shots in the future.

“If the CDC changes its definition of fully immunized (for people who have received booster shots), as I think they will, we will eventually require boosters,” Schlissel said.

After Schlissel left the meeting, several SACUA members expressed concerns about Schlissel’s role as chairman of the provost’s search committee. Members were particularly concerned about his role in hiring Philbert in 2017.

LSA professor Derek Peterson suggested that SACUA issue a statement expressing its views on Schlissel’s position as president.

“My own feeling is that launching a search with the president as president compromises the independence of the new provost from the start,” said Peterson. “(This) makes it difficult, therefore, for the new person to gain the trust of students, faculty and staff as a result of what has turned out to be a pretty disastrous research process very recently.”

Information professor Kentaro Toyama echoed Peterson’s sentiment, adding that before Schlissel, former provost research committees at the University had not been chaired by university presidents.

“I think it makes a difference,” Toyama said. “(The committee) has a little bit of power to decide what the area of ​​possibilities is… I wonder if (Schlissel) should be on the committee… I have yet to find a situation where the chairman is chairing (a committee of provost research).

Other committee members questioned the need for a SACUA statement. LSA professor Luke Williamson Hyde asked if Schlissel’s leadership on the committee made a difference in the integrity of the provost’s appointment, as the provost would always have to be approved by the president and would ultimately work under the president’s authority. .

“If that’s the president’s decision anyway (and) if that’s how the structure of the University works, does it really matter?” Hyde said.

Hyde then withdrew that comment via a Zoom chat message to the assembly after hearing Toyama’s reasoning as to why the chairman’s presence on the committee was an issue.

Peterson drafted a resolution regarding SACUA’s position on the issue. The resolution respectfully suggests that the Provost’s Research Committee be chaired by a faculty member or administrator who is not currently employed by the President’s Office.

The resolution was finally adopted with 25 yes and 12 no.

SACUA has also adopted two charges for Special Committees of the Senate Assembly, one relating to the Rules, Practices and Policy Committee (RCC) and the other relating to the Davis, Markert and Nickerson Academic Freedom Lecture. Committee (DMNC).

Journalist for the daily Irena Li can be contacted at [email protected]


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