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Message to the University Community on Restructuring the Provost’’s Position

To:        The University Community
From:   Joel Seligman
Re:       Restructuring Provost’s Position

Ralph’s decision to become President of the University of Redlands provides the opportunity to restructure the Provost’s position to more effectively address the Provost’s role in our decentralized University governance model and the ongoing expansion of the research side of the Office of the Provost.

On June 14, the Board of Trustees approved a new structure to replace the Provost’s position as currently structured with two positions:  (1) A restructured Provost position which will combine specified academic functions of the current Provost position with the position of Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Sciences and Engineering and (2) a new position, the Senior Vice President for Research.

As restructured, the Provost and Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Sciences and Engineering will supervise or be responsible for areas including:

  • The Hajim School
  • The School of Arts and Sciences
  • The Undergraduate College
  • Reaccreditation
  • The Memorial Art Gallery
  • Office of University Graduate Studies
  • River Campus Libraries
  • University Health Service
  • University Institutional Research
  • University Intercessors
  • University of Rochester Press
  • Chair, Dean’s Committee on Administrative Practices
  • Dean’s Council
  • Academic and Multidisciplinary Awards
  • Board Academic Affairs Committee

Schools outside Arts, Sciences and Engineering that currently report to the Provost on formal academic issues such as tenure and promotion (including Eastman, Simon and Warner) will continue to report to the Provost in this restructured role on these issues.  As is the current case, Eastman, Simon and Warner will report to the President or a combination of the President, Provost as restructured, and Senior Vice President for Administration and Finance on budget, strategy, and facilities.  I have reviewed this approach with Deans Borasi, Lowry, and Zupan, who have indicated their comfort with this approach.

As is now the case, the Medical Center Chief Executive Officer will be a direct report to the President.  No changes will occur in the existing reporting relationships of the School of Medicine and Dentistry or the School of Nursing.  I have reviewed this approach with Brad Berk, who has indicated his comfort with this approach.

The Provost in this restructured role will usually be asked to be responsible for decanal reviews.

I also will charge the Provost in this restructured role to be responsible for international initiatives.

The Provost in this restructured role will have to remove himself  from tenure, promotion, leave, and other faculty processes in Arts, Sciences and Engineering as well as from student appeals processes in the College and in AS&E.  Under the current model, the Provost reviews, manages, or approves these types of decisions from each school.  In the restructured model, the Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences (Joanna Olmsted) and the Dean of the Hajim School (Rob Clark) would solely make these recommendations to the Provost in this restructured role.  General Counsel Sue Stewart is preparing an operational plan to address this area.

After amendment to the Faculty Handbook, I will ask the General Counsel to be the sole Chair of the University Conflict of Interest Committee, not Co-Chair with the Provost.

The Office of Faculty Development and Diversity will continue to report to both the President and the Provost.  We will meet jointly with the Vice Provost for Faculty Development and Diversity.  This is a university priority and an area where I have a strong personal commitment.

In the new structure the Provost will be prepared to serve as interim President (presumably during a national search) in the event of the President’s incapacity, death, or departure.  A major aspect of the Provost’s job will be to attend budget, strategic planning, and facilities meetings to be prepared to assume the interim presidency if an unexpected event occurs.

The Board approved Peter Lennie to assume the role of Provost as restructured and continue as Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Sciences and Engineering when Ralph departs with a term through June 30, 2016.  In effect, the definition of responsibilities recognizes that as redefined the Provost position amplifies the position of Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Sciences and Engineering.  Peter will continue to have an office in Lattimore Hall since the majority of his duties will be as Dean.  He also will have an office in Wallis Hall.

The new Senior Vice President for Research will be responsible for the fastest growing segments of the current Provost’s position. The Senior Vice President for Research will supervise or be responsible for areas including:

  • Sponsored Research, including the Sponsored University Research Group
  • Office of Research Projects Administration
  • Laboratory for Laser Energetics
  • Information Technology
  • Health Science Center for Computational Innovation  (IBM initiative)
  • Entrepreneurship
  • The Office of Research Alliances
  • The Office of Human Subjects Protection/Research Subjects Review Board
  • Tech Transfer
  • Online Initiatives
  • Board Research and Innovation Committee

The Board approved Rob Clark to assume the role of Senior Vice President for Research on an interim basis during a national search for the Senior Vice President.  Rob can be a candidate for the permanent position as Senior Vice President and will remain as Dean of the Hajim School while interim Senior Vice President.

Even during Rob’s period as interim Senior Vice President for Research, I will expect him to make decisions as if he were permanent Senior Vice President. We have time-sensitive projects under way or soon to be under way which should not be delayed, including selection of a new director of Tech Transfer, our IBM project, and our online initiative.

Peter and Rob will to begin the transition to their new positions effective July 1 to ensure an overlap period with Ralph before Ralph departs for California.

I will chair the national search for a Senior Vice President for Research, which will begin shortly after next academic year, which is in late August for most of our academic programs.

The advantages of this new structure include:

First, the current Provost’s position combines two positions found at most of our peers – that of Chief Academic Officer and Chief Research Officer. This is a very broad portfolio and runs the risk of either the academic or the research side receiving too little attention.  This risk is a particular challenge in a University like ours where the current Provost has a key role participating in budget, strategy, and facilities meetings with the President and Senior Vice President for Administration and Finance, performs a role in Advancement, and performs a significant role at events for our faculty and our community.  Ralph estimates that the research side of his work now involves approximately 40 percent of his time, and after restructuring this percentage is likely to grow.  By dividing the two positions, the University will better ensure that both of these key responsibilities are effectively addressed.

Second, this new approach will simplify and clarify responsibility, reduce an administrative level, and achieve some synergies in combining the Provost’s academic functions and the position of Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Sciences and Engineering.  A challenge with the current structure has been the lack of budgetary responsibility of the Provost.  This is an inevitable consequence of our decentralized system, which I believe is wise to retain.  Already several major responsibilities that are often assigned to a provost (undergraduate admissions and financial aid, registrar, athletics, residential life) are held by Peter for Arts, Sciences and Engineering.  The new structure ensures that the Provost as restructured and Dean will have a clear and coherent portfolio with underlying resources.

Third, I have been impressed at how well Peter and Rob have worked in the College of Arts, Sciences and Engineering and how well they work with me. This new structure is likely to provide the University a particularly harmonious senior leadership team.

A concern about the new structure is that the new Provost and Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Sciences and Engineering was not selected after a national search.  In my view, this is simply explained.  A majority of Peter’s work will be in Arts, Sciences and Engineering, where Peter recently was reappointed after a rigorous five-year review.  In the restructured model, the Provost’s functions are narrower than those of the current Provost and logically build on the portfolio of the academic dean with the broadest portfolio.  In contrast, the position of Senior Vice President for Research is new and has never been subject to a review.

I appreciate that every structural change in an institution will inevitably create some anxiety.  I have reviewed this proposal with more than 50 members of University leadership, including the Faculty Senate Executive Committee, the last three Board chairs (Hajim, Goergen, and Witmer) as well as Hugo Sonnenschein and Bernie Ferrari, all Deans currently holding permanent appointments, several members of my Senior Leadership Group, and virtually all of Ralph’s direct reports.

I believe that the advantages of this approach far outweigh the concerns. I earlier worked under a system like this at Washington University and was deeply impressed by the advantages of a reduction in administrative layers and having (when I was a Dean) direct access to the equivalent to the University president.  I believe these types of advantages will also occur here.

Nonetheless, let me highlight that all senior leadership positions in the University are subject to annual review.  If problems develop under this new structure, there will be an informed basis for response.  The Provost position and the Senior Vice President for Research position will also be subject to our conventional five-year review, including faculty participation.  I will work with the Faculty Senate to address the five-year review process for the Provost and Senior Vice President for Research.