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April 17, 1997

UPJ told to re-open vice president search

The committee searching for a new Johnstown campus vice president for academic affairs has opted to re-open its search next fall, after being told by Provost James Maher that its recent search failed to meet Pitt affirmative action guidelines.

Maher gave UPJ the option of extending the search through the summer or re-opening it in the fall. A Provost office review, conducted by Vice Provost for Academic Affairs Jack L. Daniel, found that the search committee did not identify any qualified women among at least its top 22 candidates. And Daniel concurred with the committee's assessment.

Daniel said the committee failed to recruit qualified women candidates partly because it did not contact any of what he called "the well-known, national clearing-houses for female academic administrators," such as the American Council on Education's Office of Women in Higher Education and the National Association of Women in Education.

"It seems reasonable to expect that, among other things, these organizations would have been contacted," Daniel wrote to Maher.

In an interview, the provost said: "I studied Jack's review very carefully, and I think Jack's right." The search committee and the UPJ Faculty Senate disagree. By a 35-0 vote, Senate members April 16 approved the following resolution: "By preventing the search from reaching a successful conclusion, the Provost's office has seriously jeopardized UPJ's mission. Their actions have prevented us from filling a critical administrative position in a timely manner, and have thereby deprived us of needed leadership, undermined our morale, and threatened our ability to serve our students and the Johnstown community.

"Further, we are highly skeptical of the Provost's office claim that the search was defective and we especially note that no one in the Provost's office consulted with the search committee before reaching this conclusion. Search committee membership was diverse in gender and race and there is no evidence that the search procedure was less than balanced or fair. We have full faith and confidence that the committee did its job fairly and conscientiously, and we resent the innuendo that this was not the case." The resolution calls on the Pitt administration to follow the search committee's recommendation to "immediately" offer the UPJ job to Ronald Ambrosetti, associate dean of the faculty at the State University of New York – College at Fredonia.

UPJ Faculty Senate President Patty Derrick said she will send copies of the resolution to the provost and Chancellor Mark Nordenberg.

Maher said: "The Univer-sity's affirmative action guidelines are a very important element in every search we do. It's very rare for us to intrude at this [late] stage of a search due to non-compliance because most of our searches are very good at complying with the affirmative action guidelines. This one simply didn't." Daniel said the Provost's office conducts both an affirmative action review and a "substantive" review of each search for a Provost Area academic administrator and/or tenured or tenure-stream professor. The review commences at the point that a search committee comes to the Provost's office for permission to negotiate with finalists. "If the affirmative action review turns up problems, we don't proceed with the substantive review until those problems have been addressed," Daniel said. The substantive review, he said, basically deals with whether finalists are qualified for the position being offered. "Sometimes, by the end of a search, the job will have changed somewhat from the one our office originally approved," Daniel said.

UPJ search committee members complained that, even before they began seeking candidates, the commit-tee's search strategy was approved by both the Pittsburgh and Johnstown campus affirmative action officers. However, Daniel said this review, routinely conducted by Pitt campus Affirmative Action offices, is independent of the Provost's office review.

Search committee member Allan Walstad said, "The position was, to the best of my knowledge, advertised in the appropriate academic forums – the places where people who have anywhere near the savvy required for consideration would look if they were interested in applying for an academic vice presidency. Women, therefore, had an equal opportunity to apply." Walstad said the committee received 120 applications, many of them from qualified candidates. "Our job was not to give special handicap points to people whose applications did not stack up. Our job was to find the best available people for a critical administrative position at our campus. We did that job." Walstad said the Provost's office "apparently just went by the numbers" in finding fault with its candidates list. "This appears, in my opinion, to be a blatant case of sexual discrimination."

– Bruce Steele

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