The Oberlin Review
<< Front page News September 15, 2006

College Professors Dispute Procedure for Electing Acting Dean

Issues of College governance and the allocation of responsibilities were met with disagreement at Wednesday’s College faculty meeting, as professors and administrators discussed the possible routes for filling the now-vacant dean’s office with a temporary appointee.

The debate centered around a proposed motion from the eight professors serving on College Faculty Council. The motion, which was ultimately approved 53-44 at the end of the meeting, designates CFC as a special committee to work with the president on appointing an acting dean of the College.

Steven Volk, professor of history and member of CFC, said it was his understanding that the faculty wanted to appoint an acting dean as soon as possible. Delegating the bulk of that task to one established faculty committee would make the process more expeditious and efficient.

Al MacKay, provost and pro tem dean, noted that the process for electing administrative officials normally takes six to eight weeks, citing College Secretary Bob Haslun as his source.

Computer Science Professor Bob Geitz was alarmed by this statistic. He also doubted that CFC’s proposed motion was within the boundaries of College policy.

“I see no reason why [the election] should take that long. We could get ballots distributed by Friday. I’ll carry them to faculty mailboxes myself!” Geitz said. “It is much better for us to tinker with election procedure than with the bylaws.”

Geitz was referring to the College policy stating that the appointment of an academic division head involves electing members of the faculty to form an independent committee.

History Professor Gary Kornblith disagreed with Geitz, saying he supported making CFC a special committee to expedite the search.

“We are in crisis,” Kornblith said. “Whether it’s six weeks or even two weeks, leaving the Dean’s office without a clear sense of who will steer the ship will end in disaster.”

Ron Kahn, professor of politics, argued that standard procedure should be used, plus a commitment to fast action. 

“It seems to me the answer is just to have a speedy election,” Kahn said. “The new dean will have much more backing [from faculty] knowing there was a democratic election behind [his or her appointment].”

Economics Professor Robert Piron identified President Nancy Dye as a factor in choosing the next dean, particularly in light of her recent resignation.

“[Dye] is not easy to work with,” Piron said. “She has had problems working with a lot of deans. You need to find someone to work with our difficult president. If that doesn’t happen, you’ll be looking for a new dean next week.”

“Let’s just ask Nancy who she’d like to work with,” he continued. “Nancy will be the dean – she has been for years.”

Economics Professor Luis Fernandez proposed that CFC elect an interim dean to carry out the rest of the semester. This would provide a sufficient amount of time to elect individual faculty members to a search committee to appoint an acting dean by second semester.

A major qualm with this proposal was that January, the height of the recruiting season, is a bad time to transition from one dean to another. This motion did not pass by a vote of 45-56.

The vote in favor of CFC’s original motion is an uncommon leap forward in the search for an acting dean, a position administrators and faculty expect will be occupied for at least two years before a permanent dean is appointed.


Powered by