Faculty give feedback at graduate college dean town hall

dean fishing illustration
​Sam Ford​/THE REVIEW
The search for the new graduate college dean has begun, although the position description has not been drafted yet.

BY , ​Managing News Editor
AND , Managing News Editor

It’s been in the works for quite a while, but it now seems concrete that the creation of an eighth college at the university, a graduate college, will finally come to fruition. The search for the new dean has begun, although the position description has not been drafted yet.

University President Dennis Assanis proposed the grand idea for the college back in March 2017, but did hint at it even earlier, at his inaugural address, when he pitched the concept of a “graduate city.” The college, at face value, was an attempt to address interdisciplinary issues while simultaneously doubling the graduate student population.

Assanis has noted his motivation to increase the number of students enrolled at the university to administration and faculty several times over the years.

Even further, Assanis has since thrown the idea around of yet another college, announcing at Dr. Burnaby Munson’s memorial service on Oct. 4 that “we should work together to build the Munson Honors College.”

It is possible that, in this instance, Assanis was simply alluding to building the Honors College in memory of Munson, the late chemistry professor.

However, due to several issues along the way, including a top donor’s involvement in a heavy lawsuit surrounding sexual harassment allegations, initial faculty resistance and the delay of the vote to even pass the drafted bylaws for the college, it is only now, in fall 2019, that the idea is finally manifesting into something real.

Unrest followed the initial announcement of the graduate college, as it fell a little too close to the news that Stuart and Suzanne Grant were pledging $10 million to the project. In Nov. 2017, a UDaily article confirmed that the college itself would be named the “Stuart M. and Suzanne B. Grant Graduate College,” after the former Board of Trustees member and his wife.

In March 2018, the university confirmed it would move forward with its plans to instill the graduate college with whatever terms were designated under the Grant’s endowment.

A day after this confirmation, The Review reported that Stuart Grant was entangled in the aforementioned lawsuit wherein he accused a former director of his firm of stealing clients. This led for said director, Reuben Guttman, to allege that Grant had been sexually harassing female associates at the firm.

Stuart Grant left his position as a member of the Board of Trustees shortly afterward.

The situation remained stagnant for a while as the vote was pushed from their Jan. 1 deadline to February. It was then, during the first Faculty Senate meeting of the spring semester, that the Faculty Senate passed a draft of the graduate college bylaws, thereby approving of the graduate college itself.

On Oct. 9, representatives from Parker Executive Search visited Gore Hall in town-hall fashion to discuss the ongoing search for a dean of the newly established graduate college, with students and faculty.

The representatives from Parker stated that the position description for the Dean of the Graduate College has not yet been drafted and therefore the search committee was looking for the input of university members.

Saleem Ali, a Blue and Gold Distinguished Professor of Energy and the Environment, is a part of the university’s National Science Foundation ADVANCE program which is focused on increasing representation of women, and women of color, in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields. Ali stated that the search committee should take representation into consideration and “look outside their comfort zone” when looking for the new dean.

“We have a decent record with leadership for minority groups,” Ali said. “I think that will also be an important area to consider. [The] sense of ‘comfort zone’ that people have with certain demographics and all; to be willing to get the search committee as well as to push [them] to look outside their comfort zone.”

Deni Galileo, a university professor of biological sciences, echoed Ali’s statement that the university would have to look outside their comfort zone in terms of diversity in program.

Galileo went on to explain the characteristics of an ideal dean, referencing how the potential dean should be creating connections between existing departments.

“I think this person should be a problem solver because they are supposed to facilitate existing graduate programs for the other deans and the departments, and to help facilitate the creation of interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary programs that are not so possible now,” Galileo said.

Galileo further expanded upon what existing faculty would like to see in an incoming graduate dean.

“I don’t want to see, and I’m sure other faculty don’t want to see someone who comes here to build an empire, and who has all these big ideas, and the first thing that they are going to do is only want to be the big idea person and hire a bunch of ‘dean-lets’ to do the day-to-day stuff,” Galileo said.

He additionally expanded on the uniqueness of the role due to it being a newly-created position.

“This is the only dean who’s going to be an associate provost, so they are not really going to be on the same level as the other deans,” Galileo said.

The topic of the Grants’ endowment also came up, with Galileo stating concern over the possible lack of funding for the college.

“One thing we’re worried about is … are they going to have the resources they need?” Galileo posited to the room. “We haven’t seen any real budget. The donation from the Grants, when you take the interest off of that, that’s not really a lot of money. There are other graduate colleges at schools that donations like $50 million or more. So, are they going to have the money they need to help boost things they’re supposed to?”

According to Rachel Coppola, a community counselor at the Career Center, having assistance from someone who is both a dean and provost could be extremely beneficial to creating connections between graduate students and the career center.

“Graduate students don’t always know about us and we’re working with the graduate college to create a system that allow[s] graduate students to understand the kind of resources they’re going to need,” Coppola said.

She went on to describe the role of the new dean in its interactions with the career center.

“To me, if you’re in the middle trying to get things done, [it’s] not always as helpful as having someone on the top who understands that need and is helping you to articulate it.” Coppola said.

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