A Kansas University faculty member with expertise in conflict resolution was named Tuesday as interim chair of the university's computer science department.
Dennis Karpowitz, associate professor and associate chair of psychology, will start June 1. He will remain one to two years.
James Muyskens, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, said Karpowitz will be responsible for revitalizing a department plagued by dissension.
"It's always good to be realistic. There are a lot of things that need to be looked at and dealt with," said Karpowitz, a 20-year member of KU's faculty.
William Bulgren, professor of computer science, will continue as chair until Karpowitz begins his appointment. Bulgren submitted his resignation April 2, noting that his departure might improve chances of resolving conflict in the department.
The Journal-World published a story in November that detailed how years of discord among facuty in the department had impaired research and teaching there.
CONSULTANTS hired by KU concluded two months later the department should be abolished if faculty disputes, academic deficiencies and management problems couldn't be resolved.
Muyskens said a subsequent review by his office confirmed the department needed to review curriculum, write departmental bylaws, develop academic policy and set aside personal differences.
Karpowitz said he wants to create an atmosphere of openness, collegiality and fairness.
"This is an opportunity to see the department grow and develop in effective ways," he said.
Muyskens said he considered several candidates for the chairmanship. He searched for someone with administrative experience, knowledge of curriculum issues and background in graduate studies. He also wanted "someone to deal with tense situations calmly."
MUYSKENS told computer science faculty and graduate students about Karpowitz's appointment and other plans for reforming the department Tuesday afternoon.
"Some of them were disappointed that we would do this. It was thought too drastic by some. Others were relieved that now we seem to be moving ahead, looking where the department is going rather than where it has been," he said.
Muyskens said no department would be eager for a dean to appoint an interim chair.
"The first thing I want to do is sit down and visit with the faculty, graduate students and undergraduates and learn more about the situation and how to improve it," Karpowitz said. "Taking some time to simply develop my own impressions is an important part of the process."
Task forces will be formed to focus on specific problems in the department, Muyskens said. Faculty from computer science and other departments will participate in the groups.
ONE TASK force will attempt to help the department focus its research, he said. Another will analyze how the department's faculty could work more cooperatively.
"The goal here is to make some corrections in the course of the department so the department can again be fully autonomous," Muyskens said.
Muyskens wants to keep the department intact, but Karpowitz's appointment doesn't mean a final decision has been made to do so.
"It means that we'd really like to do that," he said.
Karpowitz said computer science faculty and graduate students would determine the department's future. "I hope to facilitate that process," he said.
MUYSKENS was encouraged by the number of KU faculty who offered to help strengthen the computer science presence on campus.
"This may be too optimistic, but I feel people in the department are more prepared to work together than anyone thought possible a few months ago," he said.