Following the Oracle’s reporting on the vacant provost position, the faculty council has expressed concerns and anxieties surrounding the decision to leave the position open.
Hamline University President Fayneese Miller made this decision after terminating the previous Provost, John Matachek, this summer. She intends to keep the post vacant to engage in community dialogue to better guide what the office is charged with, and who should be in that role.
“What are the challenges that connect to that office? What do we truly need from that office?” Miller said. “It is my intent to put together a committee that will include faculty, staff and students to talk about the direction in which we want to take the provost.
The faculty council is the university’s democratic body that oversees the interests of the faculty regardless of their tenure status. The council demonstrates the university’s commitment to shared governance and division of powers. They do not necessarily have a say over all decisions made by the administration. However, they do make binding decisions when it comes to issues of curriculum and teaching.
“We now have an associate provost, Jill Bryant, and she’s doing an amazing job, but she is not our provost,” said Dr. Binnur Ozkececi-Taner, president of the faculty council and chair of the political science department. “We don’t really know how long she is going to be in that position. We don’t really know what kind of initiatives she can pursue because she doesn’t know how long she’s going to be in that position.”
The provost effectively oversees all the academic interests of the university while reporting directly to the president and sitting on the president’s council to represent the academics of the institution.
“[From] the faculty perspective, we would really like to see a chief academic officer, who is going to kind of be the visionary for what Hamline academics will be, looking in the next five to ten years,” Ozkececi-Taner said.
The academic deans, head of the library, the registrar, associate and assistant provost and the on-line degree completion staff all report directly to the provost.
“The cabinet is experts in leadership from the key areas around the university that inform and shape collaboratively the kind of understanding the president has,” said Dr. Mike Reynolds, chair of the English department and member of the faculty council. “When there’s no specific leadership of academics duly designated authority of the academic mission in the room…The decisions will be weaker. Period.”
Reynolds said he had wished that the university had engaged in discussions around the restructuring of the office and the position last spring, when Matachek was still serving as the provost, to allow a smooth transition and to avoid, as we now have an empty office.
“I’m not pushing a panic button and saying ‘no, we can’t survive in the next couple of weeks without a provost.’ But it’s clearly something that the university needs to navigate and make the best choices and plan for our future as a scholarly institution,” said Dr. Katharine Bjork, professor of history and faculty council member.
Miller has yet to make any announcements about the formation of this community group to re-evaluate the Office of the Provost, but faculty encourage it to happen sooner rather than later.
“[The faculty council] is really looking forward to President Miller bringing this community group together. We want to hear what President Miller has in mind and what others have in mind,” Ozkececi-Taner said. “Of course we are hoping that faculty council is going to be involved in this process as well, one way or another and that we are going to have representatives on that committee.”
Until Miller announces plans for this community dialogue or fills the position, Bryant will continue to oversee the office’s day to day operations.