Faculty appeals to committee

Rachel Abbey

With the presidential search committee preparing an official position description, academic groups have been scrambling to make their voices heard.

More than 150 faculty from the College of Arts and Sciences presented a letter of their concerns for the university and the qualities they want in the next president to the search committee. The letter was spearheaded by Owen Lovejoy, biological anthropology professor, and Francoise Massardier-Kenney, director of the Institute for Applied Linguistics.

“The new president should be someone with a strong, classical academic background,” Lovejoy said, such as in the fields of physics, chemistry or psychology.

The faculty was upset because no senior faculty members were included in the search committee, psychology professor Stevan Hobfoll said. He is a distinguished professor and was involved in the discussions.

“The committee was, from the get-go, not representative of those people that know the most about research and academics,” he said.

This letter was a way to make their concerns known.

“This is an important time for all of us, hiring a new president,” Hobfoll said. “There are a number of kinds of presidents a place might hire.”

An institution might hire a politician, so he or she could accomplish goals in the capital, or a business person who would run the university like a company, he said.

The faculty hopes to see a strong academic president, Lovejoy said. For the past 10 years, the university has had to turn its attention to external affairs, as state and federal funding decreased.

“We feel that Kent State has been losing its academic credentials,” Hobfoll said.

While President Carol Cartwright has done a good job fund raising, building up the campus and strengthening undergraduate programs, Hobfoll said, Kent State’s focus has left academics.

“Maybe because attention has gone to those, the state of the faculty and the academic sector has been weakened,” he said.

At Kent State, the provost is in equal standing with the vice presidents in terms of power.

“In other words, everything is equal to academics,” Hobfoll said.

The faculty members who signed believe that is wrong, he said. At many universities, the provost is second only to the president.

“Not that the other sectors of the university are unimportant, but academics are at the heart of the university mission,” said Stan Wearden, director of the School of Communication Studies.

The directors of the College of Communication and Information composed their own letter outlining the concerns of a professional college in the search process. Wearden; Jeff Fruit, director of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication; Richard Rubin, director of the School of Library and Information Science and Steven Timbrook, director of the School of Visual Communication Design, all contributed.

The college respects the points made in the Arts and Sciences letter, but wanted to give a professional school perspective, Wearden said, clarifying and adding to the points made.

The letter from Arts and Sciences put a strong focus on increasing the prestige of Kent State’s research programs.

The College of Communication and Information letter didn’t want to downplay the importance of research, but wanted to emphasize teaching and service as well, Wearden said.

“All three are vitally important to the mission of the university,” he said.

The directors also wanted to make sure the next president would give equal respect to the liberal and professional arts, Wearden said. Liberal arts are more traditional, while professional schools train students for specific careers. Both are important to the success of a university.

College of Communication and Information faculty members plan to sign the letter, adding a paragraph about the importance of the regional campuses, said Barb Hipsman, College of Communication and Information Senate representative and associate professor of Journalism and Mass Communication, and submit it to the search committee by the end of the week.

The search committee already has a draft of its position description. They plan to submit it to Jerry Baker, the search consultant, by Friday and to publicly announce it Monday.

Contact administration reporter Rachel Abbey at [email protected].