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January 8, 1998

Provost considers 3 finalists for FAS dean

Three finalists remain in the running for the deanship of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS):

* Charles Cnudde, dean of social sciences at Florida State University.

* John Cooper, a professor in Pitt's chemistry department and former department chairperson.

* Janice Madden, vice provost for graduate education at the University of Pennsylvania.

Provost James Maher said through a spokesperson that he is having "confidential discussions" with each of the candidates, but declined further comment. The spokesperson said Maher will not name the new dean this week, but she would not speculate when the appointment might be made.

Maher has said he hopes to have the new dean in office this summer. He or she will succeed Peter Koehler, who announced in fall 1996 that he planned to resign in 1998 to become a full-time, tenured professor in the physics and astronomy department. The FAS dean search committee began its work last April.

The search committee recommended its list of finalists to Maher during a Dec. 23 meeting. Each committee member gave the provost his or her opinion of each candidate, said committee chairperson Edward Stricker.

Prior to Dec. 23, the committee had narrowed the list to five semi-finalists. The two candidates who didn't make the final cut were David Magidson, a Wayne State University theatre professor and former dean of that university's College of Fine, Performing and Communication Arts; and Thomas Scott, a University of Delaware psychology professor and former associate dean for research and graduate studies in Delaware's College of Arts and Sciences.

Search committee chairperson Stricker said the committee was unanimous in recommending Cnudde, Cooper and Madden, but he would not say why the committee eliminated Magidson and Scott.

"It wouldn't be fair to those two to indicate exactly why we didn't put them on the list [of finalists]," Stricker said. "These people were kind enough to allow us to evaluate their credentials. They invested a terrific amount of time in preparing for interviews and visiting our campus. It's bad enough that all of their investment has been for naught.

"Let's just say that the committee thought there were deficiencies in the credentials of those two semi-finalists that we didn't find in the other three." The three finalists include one woman and one candidate from Pitt, and represent a range of academic disciplines and experience at private as well as public universities. But Stricker said his committee was not seeking a balanced slate.

"I think if we had happened to put three physicists on our list of finalists, we would have noticed that that wouldn't look so good," he said. "But at no stage of this search were we looking for balance. Janice Madden was not the 'woman' candidate, and John Cooper was not the 'internal' candidate. It just fell out that they were among the three best candidates, in the opinion of our committee." The search committee did not rank the three finalists. "Among the three, I certainly have my preferences, and so do other members of the committee," Stricker said. "I don't think any of us believes that these three people are interchangeable and it doesn't matter who gets hired. What we said to the provost was that these three people are acceptable to us, and whichever one he chooses, we would be comfortable with that person as dean." n The fact that the three finalists are not interchangeable was evident at a series of public forums held by the search committee in November and December.

After running a 48-hour gauntlet of meetings with FAS administrators, faculty, students and others, each of the five semi-finalists fielded questions at an hour-long hearing open to the University community.

Cnudde is the only dean among the remaining candidates, and the only one with extensive fundraising experience. He emphasized those strengths at his Dec. 9 forum.

During Florida State's recently completed capital campaign, FSU's College of Social Sciences (of which Cnudde is dean) raised nearly twice its assigned goal of $10.7 million, he said. Cnudde also described a recent fundraising call he paid on U.S. Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.

Cnudde said he asked Gingrich for help in raising private funds for a new national research laboratory, knowing that Congress itself isn't doling out huge new grants these days. Gingrich agreed to give Cnudde a letter of introduction to a group of potential investors, and assigned a member of his staff to help Cnudde in dealing with the investors.

The laboratory project may not pan out, Cnudde said, but he cited his lobbying of Gingrich as an example of creatively seeking private funds for the arts and sciences.

Madden, the chief administrator for graduate education at an elite university, not surprisingly emphasized academic quality and high-level research during her Dec. 5 hearing.

"Those research universities that will survive in the current climate for higher education will be the ones that find ways to make [budget] cuts while preserving quality," she said.

Referring to a plan to reduce the number of FAS tenured and tenure stream faculty from 542 to 505, Madden said she would not want to be dean of a school that preferred to maintain a higher number of tenure track positions at the expense of academic excellence.

Like the other finalists, Madden said FAS's greatest strength is the excellence of its faculty. Also like the other finalists, Madden expressed conditional support for a controversial FAS plan to hire 25 non-tenure stream post-doctoral fellows who will teach for terms of three years or less.

All three finalists said the plan would provide flexibility in FAS budgeting, while offering new Ph.D.s the opportunity to build up their teaching portfolios. Candidates agreed that as long as the post-doc program is administered responsibly, it needn't lead to the exploitation of young faculty, as critics of the plan have charged.

Cooper, whose remarks at a Nov. 25 forum were reported in the Dec. 4 University Times, talked at length about FAS long-range planning and budgeting.

He said the school has gone beyond trimming fat from its budget ("We're to the point of cutting muscle and bone"), promising he would not ask FAS faculty to go through the effort of planning their departments' futures unless he, as dean, had reached an understanding with the provost that budget parameters would remain stable throughout the process.

Such stability has been lacking in recent FAS planning, Cooper said.

— Bruce Steele

Filed under: Feature,Volume 30 Issue 9

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