In recent years Kent State has tried to better itself through a regional development initiative, one billed by the university as seeking to strengthen its campuses and improve the quality of life for Northeast Ohio.
That’s why they hired Patricia A. Book.
Joining the university in 2004 as Kent State’s first vice president for regional development, Book has been in charge of aligning the university’s resources in education and economic development, according to the university’s Web site.
Simply put, Book is in charge of the regional campuses.
But Book recently took on additional responsibilities which many faculty members are not happy about it, and neither are we.
On April 15, Book’s title changed from vice president of regional development to vice president for university outreach and regional campuses, Provost Paul Gaston told the Stater. With this change came the responsibility of handling the academic affairs at the regional campuses as well as the administrative ones.
While administrators and deans have been saying this move simplifies the reporting process for regional campuses, many faculty members have voiced their concerns about an executive officer being put in charge of academic affairs.
“This is not about whether or not Book in particular can do this job,” Susan Roxburgh, associate professor of sociology and faculty senator, told the Stater. “These are crucial academic functions, and she is not an academic officer.”
Roxburgh is right. Book does have an impressive resume, as any Kent State VP should, but she wasn’t hired to be an assistant provost.
Many faculty members at the regional campuses are concerned about the academic responsibilities Book will hold, said Tish Soper, associate professor of accounting technology, chair of the Regional Campus Faculty Advisory Committee and faculty senator. These include having a say in faculty reappointments, promotions and tenure.
When Book was interviewed, she was not going to be in the position to evaluate faculty on their teaching and scholarship. Now, the provost will make the final decision, but Book would be involved.
Book told the Stater that when she was hired, it was with the understanding that she would be providing representation and recommendations for the eight-campus system. When Book came here about a year and a half ago, she said the administration decided they would re-examine the position after she had some experience in it.
But faculty only found out about the change about a week before implementation, said Tom Dowd, chair of Faculty Senate, and concerns arose about the new title as soon as it was announced.
“It looked to them like they were blind-sided,” Dowd said.
Some faculty fear the title will lump academic programs with workforce development and continuing studies, Soper has said. These areas were previously unrelated.
Perhaps Kent State has the university’s best interests in mind with this move, or perhaps the university is trying to camouflage a branch sticking out of its administration before a new president comes in with pruning clippers. Either way, faculty should have been more involved in the decision.
And in the end, this was not what Book was hired to do.
The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.