KU still mum on next steps for liberal arts dean position

photo by: Associated Press

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

Two weeks after interim dean Clarence Lang declined the permanent deanship for the University of Kansas College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the university has yet to announce a plan to fill the position.

Ruben Flores, the University Senate president, and Kirk McClure, the Faculty Senate president, both told the Journal-World on Wednesday that they have not been informed of a plan to fill the position since Carl Lejuez, interim KU provost, announced that Lang on Jan. 24 declined the unusual and controversial direct appointment.

At the time, Lejuez said he did not know how the university would move forward to fill the position but he told the KU community in an email that he would “be in touch shortly” about the next steps.

Lejuez did not respond to requests for comment on Wednesday. A spokeswoman for his office, Jill Hummels, said he had attended President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, but was expected to be on campus Wednesday afternoon. The university, however, closed campus at noon because of icy weather.

Although Lejuez has not “formally or informally” shared a plan on the position with him, Flores said Wednesday that he was not worried about a lack of an announced plan.

“It’s a central position, and it takes considerable thought,” he said. “I’m not worried at this point.”

Additionally, Lang’s future at the university is unclear.

Lang is still working as the interim dean for the college, but he has not responded to multiple Journal-World phone calls or emails requesting comment. When a Journal-World reporter visited his office on Wednesday, Linda Bonebrake, Lang’s executive assistant, said he was on campus but was too busy to meet with the reporter.

In December, Lejuez proposed giving Lang a three-year appointment for the dean position, bypassing the university’s formal search process. The decision was controversial, with some faculty groups opposed to bypassing the traditional hiring processes and others saying the unusual procedure was necessary because KU was in a “crisis” situation.

Lejuez, who was CLAS dean before filling in as provost, said giving Lang the appointment was necessary because the university was going through a period of $20 million budget cuts and needed Lang — who said he was being courted by another institution — to not leave KU for another job. Neither Lejuez nor Lang has ever disclosed what institution was trying to lure Lang away.

“Losing the opportunity to have Dr. Lang in a permanent dean’s role in the College is a true blow to the College and KU more broadly,” Lejuez said in his message to the university on Jan. 24. “He is a great steward of the College, stepping into a particularly challenging interim role and taking on a range of complex and thorny issues in the nine months he has held this position.”

When asked on Jan. 24 about Lang’s future as interim dean and whether Lang had accepted a position at another institution, Lejuez said he did not know yet.

“I’ve shared all the information I have on it,” Lejuez said at the time, referring to his email to the university. “We will share more as we know it.”

Meanwhile, Lejuez is also serving in an interim role. KU Chancellor Douglas Girod previously said that the university would use an executive search firm to conduct a nationwide search for a provost in late spring 2019.

Contact Dylan Lysen

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