Saturday, February 05, 2011

UAA Faculty Senate Upset about Chancellor Appointment Process

[Some people I've talked to this week said they really aren't aware much of the University.  That's a shame because it has a large budget and its mission is to educate the people who will be Alaska's future.  The ADN simply cut and pasted a brief version of the University's press release.]

The UAA Faculty Senate discussed the appointment of Tom Case as its new Chancellor at Friday afternoon's meeting. I posted earlier in the week that former Air Force General and now University of Alaska President Pat Gamble had appointed former Air Force General Tom Case to be Chancellor of the University of Alaska Anchorage campus.  At the time I pointed out that this would mean that the four highest positions at the University of Alaska would be held by white males over 60 who did not have terminal academic degrees.  The idea of diversity is pretty entrenched in American government and business these days.  Not just for symbolic reasons, but because it is understood that people with different life experience see the world differently and bring different perspectives to the table, perspectives that better understand and reflect (in this case) the people of the State, the student body, and the faculty, and others in the university community.  You simply get better decisions if your leadership reflects your employees and constituents.

But today's Faculty Senate meeting didn't focus on that issue.  After dealing with old business, they took up discussion of the Chancellor appointment.  There were three key concerns:
  1. The Individual.  There was widespread agreement that the group did not want to focus on the individual who was appointed Chancellor.  The group's comments suggested they did not want to embarrass Tom Case in any way, or even the president.
  2. The Process.  There seemed to be three responses to how the new Chancellor was selected:
    1. Outrage/Anger -  This response, based on my count of people's comments, seemed to reflect a plurality, if not a majority.  People felt the university culture's process of collaborative governance was trashed and people felt insulted and outraged and wanted the President to be aware that he had seriously abused his position.
    2. Upset - Pretty much the same as 1 but expressed less passionately.
    3. We should reach out - One person, using nursing (I think) terminology said that there was a knowledge deficit and that the faculty needed to educate the President about academic culture.  She also said the faculty had a knowledge deficit about the president.  While others didn't necessarily share this non-judgmental way of putting it, it seemed that most agreed there needed to be more communication between the faculty and the President. 
  3. What to do next.


This seems like a good point to step back and talk about the process which came out in bits and pieces in the meeting and which I also learned more about from commenters in the last post on this and asking folks.

The academic culture tends to have very collaborative search processes for important positions - faculty and high level administrators - who will have a major impact on the organization for a long while.  Other government and business organizations also use nationwide searches for many positions, but often are less inclusive of so broad a cross-section of the organizational community.  I sat on the search committee that chose Lee Gorsuch as chancellor.  He also did not have a PhD.  But having the national search meant that we were sure we couldn't attract a better candidate and the new Chancellor came in with the strong support of the faculty.  Yes, cost is a factor, but there are options between nothing at all and a full, costly search.  APU, the small private university nearby, last year had a nation-wide search for its president which included faculty, students, alumni, and community members.  And attracted a strong, experienced academic administrator from Outside who also had good Alaska experience.  In that case, the Alaska candidates did not prove to be the strongest.  To get a sense of a normal search, here are the steps from the University of Minnesota.
  1. Board approves search plan;
  2. Board selects desired leadership characteristics for a new president and appoints a search advisory committee;
  3. Search advisory committee recruits pool of candidates, reviews their qualifications and selects candidates for initial interviews;
  4. Search advisory committee conducts interviews and forwards semi-finalists to board;
  5. Board reviews semi-finalists and publicly names finalists;
  6. Finalists visit campus for public interviews by the board and meetings with campus community;
  7. Board selects president.  
These are pretty short and to the point.  The State University of  New York (SUNY) has far more detailed steps which appear to be statewide policy or perhaps even law.  The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) has another detailed list for President/Chancellor searches.  This is the norm in academic institutions.  When a President such as Gamble comes in from a different organizational setting, it is his responsibility to get up to speed on how things are done, or at least have a couple of very good insider advisers that he can check with.  Either Gamble didn't do this and should have, or he knew what he was doing and was using the management maxim "It's better to ask forgiveness than permission."  Or the full meaning of 'shared governance' was hard to believe for a retired Air Force general. 

Search Timeline

January 22, 2010 - Chancellor Fran Ulmer announces her retirement in mid 2011.  She gave over a year's notice, giving the university plenty of lead time to conduct a search.  The Anchorage Daily News quoted then President Hamilton:
"Fran's announcement today was done in the typical thoughtful fashion that is Fran's hallmark," said University of Alaska President Mark Hamilton, who also recently announced his own retirement. "She has given the UAA community, me and the next president plenty of time to plan for a smooth transition. She cares deeply about this institution."
I'd note that academic national searches take as much time as you have.  Ideally you'd begin about a year out before the position has to be filled in hopes of attracting people before they have committed to other institutions.  And also giving them reasonable time to cut ties from their old institution and get settled in the new one.  In this case, the University could have established a position description in Spring 2010 to get a head start.

November 23, 2010  (Ten months later on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving) - President Gamble sends out memo to University community announcing the beginning of the President search.
Double click to enlarge

The memo - I have a PDF copy that doesn't allow me to cut and paste as text- so I have to take images.  Here's a bit of what the President said he thought was needed in the next Chancellor.

But he also hinted at what was coming at the end of that memo:
I am mindful that the last formal, national UAA chancellor search in 2003-2004 cost $250,000 and took eight months.  I am equally mindful that all three of our current chancellors, who I personally consider exceptionally talented leaders and working partners, were not selected through and extended and costly formal search process.  Considering these past experiences I believe we should remain open minded about a method that will lead to the best outcome for UAA and the state.
So, it would appear from this document that President Gamble knew about - even if he might not have understood the practical implications - the importance of shared governance.  And he knew that these searches could take a long time and that by waiting until late November he'd let a lot of time slip by.

Dec. 6, 2010 - The Faculty Senate responds with this memo (a pdf that allowed cut and pasting)

(Basically they say they don't want to skip the search and have a direct hire by the president, but if that is going to happen, they would support doing that for the current Provost Mike Driscoll.) 
Date: December 6, 2010
To:    Patrick K. Gamble, President, University of Alaska
From:    John Petraitis, President, UAA Faculty Senate
Re:    UAA Chancellor Search

In our December 2010 meeting, UAA’s Faculty Senate discussed your letter concerning how to proceed with finding Fran Ulmer’s replacement when she retires in 2011. The following motion was passed unanimously.
Faculty Senate is committed to shared governance that involves faculty, staff, and students. As such, we are, as a rule, uncomfortable with a direct hire of senior administrators. 
But, if you opt for a direct hire, the only person Faculty Senate would support is Mike Driscoll because he was hired as Provost after a national search, he has performed well as Provost, he knows UAA perhaps better than any other applicants for the position, and he has served as Acting Chancellor several times as Chancellor Ulmer has worked on the Presidential Oil Spill Commission. 
Given our commitment to shared governance, we encourage you to consult with UAA's other governance groups to get their opinions on this matter. 
If you do not opt for a direct hire of Mike Driscoll, Faculty Senate requests that the Chancellor's position be filled after national search and that the search committee consist of faculty, staff, students, alumni, and representatives from UAA's community campuses.
For 44 Against 0 Unanimously approved
Mid January [18,] 2011 - President has a meeting with invited participants including faculty officers, local business people, alumni, community leaders, students, [a couple of deans/directors, and representatives from UAA's community campuses] and asks them for their characteristics of a good chancellor.  

January 31, 2011 - The President sends out a memo announcing he has chosen Tom Case as the new Chancellor.

These are the dates of meetings that I know of.  If there were other meetings on this I'm not aware of them.

Back to the Meeting - What to do next.

The faculty wrestled with the following issues:

1.  Was Gamble willfully violating the university culture  and the notion of shared governance or just acting out of cultural ignorance? 

2.  What was the most appropriate way to let him know they were seriously pissed with the process and at the same time maintain enough cordiality to be able to work with Gamble in the future and also with Tom Case?

Since they didn't know his motives - and some complained that he'd never been to campus to talk with them - it was difficult to decide.  If he was knowingly skirting the process because he thought he could get away with it and appoint his friend, then they felt they needed to stand up to him and let him know he was going to face resistance if he tried this again.  But if this was a genuine culture clash, they were willing to give him another chance. 

Faculty Senate President Petraitis
Two people at the meeting who have had most contact with Gamble said they thought he would prove more willing to involve faculty in important decisions than had President Hamilton.  Faculty Senate President John Petraitis pointed out that the faculty had been asked to  take a key role in preparing the University strategic plan.  Chancellor Ulmer said she thought a reason he hadn't been on campus much was he believed in decentralization and staying out of campus business.  (Some people wondered how that squared with how the Chancellor was chosen.)  She also pointed out that since neither she nor Brian Rogers had been appointed through a major search process, he might not have thought such a search necessary.*

Petraitis also announced that Gamble would be at UAA at a public meeting on Wednesday, February 9.  The exact time and place weren't certain - probably 4:30-5:30 in Library 307, but check.  He said he'd suggested this to Gamble after the announcement and Gamble agreed. He said Gamble couldn't make today's meeting because he was out of state at a grandchild's baptism. 

Action Taken

They passed a motion to send a memo supporting Provost Driscoll. There was major concern about the perceived snub of Provost Driscoll whom the faculty had supported in their Dec. 6 memo.  The faculty still strongly supported him and were worried that he would seek a job elsewhere after the President ignored the faculty recommendations.    I didn't get to see the actual motion so I won't try to characterize it more than that.

[UPDATE 12noon:  Here's a copy of the motion:

Motion: A vote of confidence for Provost Michael Driscoll

We have confidence in the leadership of Provost Michael Driscoll because he has wisely and successfully provided academic and administrative guidance to the University of Alaska Anchorage. We commend him for many things, including the following:
  • Representing us and advocating for us to statewide administration, the Board of Regents, and the community of Anchorage
  • Supporting shared governance by soliciting faculty, staff, and student input and, then, being responsive to it in appropriate measure
  • Following academically authorized processes of curriculum development and approval; hiring of faculty and administrators; and promotion and tenure, giving faculty significant leaderships roles in those processes
  • For ensuring transparency in the Office of Academic Affairs
We thank you for service to our institution and hope it continues for many years.]

The faculty decided not to send a second motion to convey their outrage about the process and what that meant for the future, deciding that it would be better to do that in the face-to-face meeting next Wednesday.

*I'd point out that Ulmer was first appointed as Interim Chancellor after Chancellor Maimon announced her decision to take a new position in Governor's State University in February 2007 - fairly late in the year to do a serious Chancellor search.  Faculty were involved in the decision.  I'm not sure about the decision later to forgo a search and make Ulmer's appointment permanent.

Rogers' interim appointment also included faculty having a chance to meet two candidates and give their feedback to the President.  I don't know if there was any participation in his permanent appointment.

[Update 5:30pm - see comments below which say that for both Ulmer and Rogers' appointments - interim and permanent - faculty were involved and supported the decisions.]


  1. In regards the militarization of the University, that militarization extends to other positions, I would be interested in how many other positions have been filled by way of this connectivity to the military?

    Meet the University's Kenai College Director:

    Are there still more positions filled from the ranks of the military?

  2. The faculty is becoming increasingly disempowered, as administrative bloat takes hold. This is where UAA is headed, below. One personal senior manager for every faculty. Administrative bloat; what's not to love?

    And tuition inflation makes healthcare inflation look tame.

    It's not sustainable. As a woman, I've had it with the good old boy system. Power corrupts, and the feedback loops just potentiate the power and pay imbalances. UAF has already turned into a military research complex--let's not go there here at UAA?

  3. UAF's Faculty Senate gave a vote of confidence in Brian Rogers after one year, recommending to Mark Hamilton that Rogers become the permanent Chancellor.

  4. In the cases of both Brian Rogers and Fran Ulmer, faculty were included in all decisions made. Hamilton conferred with faculty (and other governance groups) before either was appointed as interim, and again when he decided to make the appointments permanent. In fact, Fran's permanent appointment came at the instigation of UAA Faculty Senate who passed a motion to that effect.


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