Faculty members say provost search wasn’t flawed

Kevin Kolus

Until President Lester Lefton makes his decision, the search for vice president of academic affairs and provost should not be reopened despite the contention that it was flawed, Faculty Senate Chair Cheryl Casper said.

Casper spoke in response to George Garrison, president of Kent State’s Pan-African Faculty and Staff Association, and his Tuesday e-mail to Lefton suggesting the search was questionable, asking it to be reopened.

“It’s a little unfortunate, I think, that this issue is being raised,” Casper said. “It could be an attempt to undermine the viability of the recommended candidates. I don’t see any evidence to support that.”

Garrison said the search should be conducted again because two candidates – Walter Harris Jr. and Elizabeth Langland – withdrew their candidacy. He called Harris and Langland “the top 50 percent of the finalist pool” and said their withdrawal demands the search process to come under question.

“I would challenge his assertions that the top 50 percent withdrew,” Casper said. The three candidates that were recommended to the president, she said, were not given a value. Also, each candidate was found to be of acceptable quality to the faculty senate.

Garrison said the process-of-elimination approach to the search was also detrimental to choosing quality candidates, and the university needs to “go out there and actively search.”

However, the process-of-elimination approach is standard for these searches, said Richard Rubin, director of the School of Library and Information Science.

“I have no reason to believe it should have been conducted differently,” Rubin said. “It seemed to be a very straightforward process.

“Dropping out is also not unusual. Candidates, after they have come in for interviews, often think if this is the right job for them. Candidates all throughout the process will think if this is the right job for them.”

Garrison also said the search was not diverse enough. There was one woman and one minority candidate in the final four.

Other faculty did think the group was diverse, though, including Rubin, Casper and Larry Andrews, dean of the Honors College.

“I think it was a diverse group, those four,” Andrews said. “The fact that the woman candidate and the minority candidate withdrew leaves the remaining pool less diverse, but when people withdraw you can’t do anything about it.”

Casper also said in disagreement with Garrison that these searches are not commonly reopened. Being on the previous provost search’s committee, she said the only reason it was reopened was the remaining candidates were of unacceptable quality – not because the search itself was flawed.

Contact academics reporter Kevin Kolus at [email protected].