More than 3 months after announcing provost’s departure, KU has yet to start search for replacement

photo by: Associated Press

A bus passes in front of Strong Hall Nov. 16, 2015, on the University of Kansas campus.

More than three months after announcing then-Provost Neeli Bendapudi’s departure from the post, University of Kansas leaders have yet to begin the search for her replacement.

When asked for an update on the process earlier this week, KU spokeswoman Erinn Barcomb-Peterson said “there is no active search at this time.” Despite Chancellor Douglas Girod telling colleagues in early April that he would share details on the search “in the coming weeks,” there hasn’t been an official public update in the 13 weeks since.

The university has shared some developments in regard to the vacant provost position, however, announcing in mid-April that Carl Lejuez, then dean of KU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, would serve as interim provost. Lejuez, who arrived at KU from the University of Maryland in 2016, has been the public face of KU’s budget situation over the last several months, announcing plans last month to cut $20 million from the university’s budget and later fielding some tough questions from faculty and students at the first of a series of town hall meetings on the subject.

Lejuez has stressed, during that meeting and in interviews with the Journal-World, that the sweeping cuts are necessary if KU is to avoid a financial calamity in the coming years. He has advised deans and vice provosts to make their own decisions on how to implement the roughly 5.9 percent across-the-board cuts to their schools and departments, which are expected to go into effect during the recently begun 2019 fiscal year.

photo by: Journal-World File Photo

In this file photo from June 2016, Carl Lejuez is pictured in his role as dean of the University of Kansas College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Bendapudi’s departure to the University of Louisville, where she now serves as president, was announced nearly two months ahead of KU’s first announcement on the planned $20 million cuts.

Earlier this week, when asked how the search for Bendapudi’s permanent replacement was coming along, spokeswoman Barcomb-Peterson said simply, “We will update the university community when the search process begins.”

The Journal-World asked several follow-up questions, including one inquiry about whether administration had decided to halt or pause the search since Girod’s statement in April that details would be provided “in the coming weeks,” and, if so, why.

“Your suggestions that a process is ‘halted/paused’ and that the position will remain vacant indefinitely are wrong,” Barcomb-Peterson wrote in an email. “The search has not yet begun.”

Barcomb-Peterson did not say when that search would begin, only that the university community would be notified when it does.

“An interim provost and executive vice chancellor is handling the charges of the role, and we will update the university community when the search process begins,” she wrote.

That statement was in response to several questions from a Journal-World reporter, among them inquiries about the potential involvement of a consulting firm in the process, whether Lejuez was being considered for the role, the extent to which faculty and student input would help determine the hire, and whether interviews or other components of the search process would be made public.

Details about the university’s budget planning have similarly been scarce, though interim Provost Lejuez has said that he plans to host additional town hall forums in the months ahead. A second town hall on the budget cuts is planned for August, though a specific date has yet to be announced.

KU’s provost and executive vice chancellor is second in command at the Lawrence campus, after the chancellor.

Fall 2018 classes are scheduled to begin on Aug. 20.

The university did announce a major hire on Thursday: Jeff Long will begin on Aug. 1 as KU’s new athletic director, replacing Sheahon Zenger, whom Girod fired on May 21.

The search for that position took 45 days and involved a search committee. As of Friday, it had been more than twice as long — 94 days — since Girod announced Bendapudi’s departure.

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