There is growing concern among Kansas University faculty about current fiscal restraints and how these money problems may impact the institution, their jobs and their ability to provide a superior and challenging educational experience for their students.
At the same time, there is increasing concern among faculty members about the selection of a new provost for the university.
In a way, the provost’s excellence, visionary leadership and executive abilities are more important to faculty members than the activities of the chancellor.
The provost is supposed to be “Mr. or Mrs. Inside” or with the chancellor being “Mrs. Outside.” The provost is in charge of the faculty and the school’s academic excellence. The chancellor deals with state legislators, alumni and friends and helps raise money for the institution.
She is the face of the university, but the provost is responsible for the faculty and its excellence.
This is why there is growing concern about who will be selected to fill this critical role. Will it be the someone from outside KU or will someone be elevated from within?
Currently, Danny Anderson serves as interim provost, having been put in that position when former Provost Richard Lariviere left to become president of the University of Oregon. Apparently, one provost is not enough at KU because the university directory lists seven vice provosts.
According to a number of senior faculty members, it is hoped members of the search committee formed to recruit several individuals for the provost’s position will select individuals from outside KU for their recommendations. They say it is critical for the academic excellence of the school that a highly skilled and respected individual be selected for this position.
It stands to reason that new KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little should be extremely interested in the quality of those selected by the search committee and that, due to her own years as a provost at the University of North Carolina, she should be well schooled on the role of a provost and what kind of person she would like to have in this important position. She also should know who the better provosts are around the country or perhaps who her former colleagues might suggest as up-and-comers in this field.
As chancellor she should want the best — and KU deserves the best.
As noted in an earlier Saturday Column, there are a number of people within the Strong Hall administrative fraternity (some call it the Strong Hall cabal) who have wasted no time in trying to position themselves in the eyes of Gray-Little as being important to her success, as well as the success of the institution. It’s a game of self-survival, and the idea of a chancellor or executive being protected or insulated by staff is a deadly matter. Chancellors need to know and be aware of what those on the outside are thinking.
Numerous senior and highly respected faculty members acknowledge they are concerned about the actions and motives of some of these second-level individuals and whether they are helping or hurting the school in their own quest for influence and control.
In addition to the empty provost’s position, there also are vacancies in the deans’ offices of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the new School of Music. Earlier this week, Gail Agrawal, dean of the School of Law, resigned her KU deanship to become dean of the University of Iowa College of Law. The KU post was her first deanship, and many wonder what prompted her move to Iowa City when the Iowa deanship is not a major or significant step up in the excellence of law schools. It also is reported the Iowa law school faculty is in a state of disarray.
A meeting has been scheduled for Monday for faculty and administrators to name an interim dean and discuss the search effort for a new dean.
A great deal is riding on the level of leadership and vision at KU. As in most every business or endeavor, it’s the quality of excellence of leadership that makes the difference between poor, mediocre and true excellence.
KU alumni and friends and, even more importantly, KU faculty members want the best in leadership, vision and inspiration provided by their leaders.
Those with the responsibility of selecting finalists for the next KU provost and deans of the College, School of Music and School of Law are playing a big role in determining the excellence of KU. Will they present the names of individuals who can help build the university into an even better institution or settle for “comfortable,” moderately priced, average individuals, who are not likely to rock the boat? The College and law deans and certainly the provost’s office are among the top three to five positions at KU. The School of Law impacts every county and major city in the state.
Whether or not it is publicly acknowledged, these are crucial times for the university, and growing numbers of faculty are well aware of the situation. Whether or not alumni and friends living away from Lawrence are sufficiently aware of the seriousness of the matter is questionable because many seem willing to float with the tide and accept the “in house” suggestion that everything is fine on Mount Oread rather than call for KU to regain its former position as a true flagship institution for this part of the country, not just for the state of Kansas.