Deans named without usual search process

Maria Nann

Faculty OK with exceptions to rule, provost says

Position vacancies force universities to find the best person for the role – especially if it’s a top post like a college dean, whose influence affects a large portion of the campus community.

This year, Kent State’s administration has appointed four deans without search committees looking for permanent replacements:

• Evelyn Goldsmith, appointed interim dean of Graduate Studies in February 2008.

• Jim Dalton, appointed interim dean of the College of Architecture and Environmental Design in 2005. Contract extended in July 2008.

• Verna Fitzsimmons, appointed interim dean of the College of Technology in July 2008.

• Yank Heisler, appointed dean of the College of Business in September 2008.

For Provost Robert Frank, the most important thing when finding a dean is the future of the college.

“When we look for a dean, we look for skills that match what we need, someone who can help the college get to where we want it to go,” Frank said.

The Committee on Administrative Officers sets procedures for finding someone to fill administrative vacancies, such as open dean positions. Generally, the university forms a search committee to find a replacement.

A need for resources

Filling a dean’s vacancy is a process, and it doesn’t happen overnight. It takes both tangible and intangible resources – like money and time.

“Not every college is prepared to search for a new dean,” Frank said, explaining how the university suffered two unsuccessful searches before finding a dean for the College of Arts and Sciences.

Tom Janson, chairman of the Faculty Senate and the Committee on Administrative Officers, said that a search conducted by a firm outside the university costs a minimum of $10,000, adding that the College of Business dean – Heisler’s new position – is the most highly paid in the university.

A new idea

Dalton served as director of the School of Architecture and Environmental Design until 1999, before being appointed as interim dean in 2005 as the school transitioned into a college. He accepted a two-year contract extension in July. At the end of his appointment, the university plans to search for a new dean.

Goldsmith and Fitzsimmons were also appointed to interim positions, but no search committees have been formed so far to find permanent replacements.

Heisler, however, was appointed to his position directly after George Stevens, the current College of Business dean, announced in the summer that he was stepping down.

Frank called Heisler a “term” dean. He will hold the position for two years, after which Frank said he would meet with faculty members to determine whether the university should extend Heisler’s contract or form a search committee to find a permanent replacement.

Stevens, who has been a dean for 20 years, said other universities also appoint deans to term positions.

“Some schools do it to settle things down before conducting a full-blown search,” he said. “A search is tough. I think there are more jobs out there than there are qualified people to fill them.”

An ‘allowed exception’

The University Policy Register does not specifically outline the process for hiring a dean, but typically Kent State fills positions by forming search committees comprised of faculty, deans and administrators.

These committees post advertisements announcing open positions, review applications and make recommendations for hires to the Committee on Administrative Officers.

Although none of this year’s four appointed deans were hired through the search committee process, Janson said there was definite communication between the provost and the faculty prior to appointments.

“We talked with faculty multiple times to be sure this is the best route to follow,” Frank said, adding that Kent State hired three deans last year under traditional searches.

Janson said Frank had several meetings with the colleges and spoke with faculty several times before making the appointments. This communication allowed for the appointments to be made.

“It’s really an exception to the rule – an allowed exception,” Janson said.

Contact academic affairs reporter Maria Nann at [email protected].