Love reinstates chairs

By Heather Scroering

After a campuswide outcry sparked by the recent announcement that Fiction Writing Department Chair Randy Albers and English Department Chair Ken Daley would not have their contracts renewed, Interim Provost Louise Love has taken an unexpected turn and renewed their contracts for one year.

Love, who is also vice president of Academic Affairs, announced the dramatic reversal March 13 in an email addressed to faculty and staff.

“I have asked Randy Albers and Ken Daley to remain as chairs of their respective departments for the year ahead; and they have both graciously agreed,” Love said in the email. “This will provide trusted leadership and continuity regardless of the decisions coming out of the Blueprint: Prioritization process.”

Reactions to the dismissal of Albers and Daley as chairs, including student protests, were highlighted by a scathing email to Love from the tenured members of the Faculty Senate’s Executive Committee, as reported by The Chronicle on March 12.

The senators interpreted the nonrenewal of the two chairs as an “implementation” of changes suggested in the prioritization process before final decisions have been made. They accused the administration of violating its own rules for the yearlong prioritization process.

Though not clearly stated in Love’s email, President Warrick L. Carter said the decisions were not related to prioritization.

“[Reviewing chairs’ contracts is] a normal process of the college, and in this case it just happened during the middle of this prioritization process,” Carter said. “Everybody pulled things together that clearly had no relationship to each other.”

He said the decisions were made as a result of discussions among Love, Eliza Nichols, dean of the School of Fine and Performing Arts, and Deborah Holdstein, dean of the School of Liberal Arts and Sciences because the chairs’ contracts had ended.

According to Carter, it was after much confusion from the college community that Love and the deans decided to retract their initial decisions.

“A lot of people got it all mixed up and thought that Louise’s recommendations were final,” he said. “They decided—and they decided correctly—to take that off the table. That’s not part of the discussion.”

Carter added that Albers and Daley will be able to assist in implementing changes within their respective departments, and Love said in her email that the chairs would remain in a position of leadership.

Albers said he did not expect to be reinstated but was glad to accept.

“I’m happy to do it; I just wanted to make sure it was a real leadership position, and they assured [me] it was,” he said. “I would not have done it if I had been in some way just a functionary.”

When The Chronicle reached Daley for comment, he said he was waiting for approval from Love to make a statement because Carter, in an email sent March 14, had asked faculty and staff to refrain from discussing the prioritization process with students and media “to ensure that [the college] does not cause unwarranted anxiety or apprehension within [the] community.”

In a subsequent conversation with Love, she affirmed that Carter would speak on Daley’s and her behalf.

Carter said questions should be answered by those who have accurate information and not answered “willy-nilly” by those who do not. In his email, he encouraged the community to come to him with inquiries and comments and asked that all questions regarding media be directed toward Diane Doyne, associate vice president of Public Relations, Marketing and Advertising in the Institutional Marketing Department.

“What’s happened here, unfortunately, is people have decided to deliver their own messages based upon how they think things are and how they misinterpret the definition of ‘recommend’ and begin to say that things are being done,” Carter said.

He added that the college’s decision to make the process a transparent one was not extended to those outside of the college community, but some have done so. He said that while he does not feel that the transparency has been a detriment to the process, he feels that engaging those outside Columbia has been a “disservice.”

According to Carter, articles about Columbia’s prioritization process have been published in local newspapers such as the Chicago Tribune., an online publication, has also written articles on the process.

But others buzzing about it are the students, who were not asked to have any direct involvement in the process, as previously reported by The Chronicle on Sept. 26, 2011. Though the process began last September, students received their first explanatory email from Carter on March 14.

He said he will touch on prioritization and other topics at his State of the College address March 21 at The Loft in the 916 S. Wabash Ave. Building.

Carter will also be working with the Student Government Association when all of the recommendations have been decided and made public.

“I guaranteed [the SGA] that I will do a very good listen and receive from them any kind of written recommendation or comment that they’d like to have in the process,” he said. “They are the official student voice, so that’s the voice I’m going to.”