Binghamton University has narrowed its search to five finalists who are vying to become the next provost and vice president for academic affairs — the last position left empty after the fallout from the 2009 men’s basketball scandal — the first of which came to speak yesterday.
Mary Ann Swain, the previous provost and vice president for academic affairs, stepped down during the 2009 investigation into the men’s basketball program, to return to teaching. Since then, Jean-Pierre Mileur has served as interim provost.
Susan Strehle, the co-chair of the committee in charge of finding a new provost, said the provost and vice president for academic affairs is a critical addition to the administration because he acts as the University’s chief academic administrator.
“The president is the fundraiser, the politician and the figure-head leader, but this person is the academic leader,” she said. “He’s the one who spends the budget and decides if your department gets to hire somebody new and my department doesn’t.”
Strehle added that the administrative turnover following the scandal quelled any doubts about the repeat of a similar scandal.
“The campus really did learn its lesson in that, there’s a new director of athletics now, so I don’t even think anyone thought about that,” she said. “But we are looking for someone with strong ethics, and in listening you can tell if someone cares about those kinds of things.”
The Provost Search Committee is composed of faculty members, administrators, the vice president for student affairs and two student representatives.
The faculty members on the committee were appointed by the Faculty Senate, according to Strehle, who is also the chair of the Faculty Senate, while the Graduate Student Organization and the Student Association appointed the graduate and undergraduate representatives, respectively.
“We attempted to take the faculty which the faculty appointed and broaden the constituency,” Strehle said, referring to the inclusion of student representatives.
David Ostermann, the undergraduate student appointed to the committee, and Latoya Lee, the graduate student appointed, did not respond to phone calls or emails from Pipe Dream.
Over the next week, the finalists will speak about what constitutes a premier public university before the search committee and faculty members. The talks are scheduled for 3 p.m. on May 10, 11, 14 and 16 in the Old Union Hall, and are open to the public.
Robert McMaster, the first finalist to address the committee, spoke yesterday. McMaster is vice provost and dean of undergraduate education at University of Minnesota.
During his presentation, McMaster said that though many universities are choosing to focus on contract faculty, he remains a strong defender of tenured and tenure-track faculty.
“At our own peril, we let the number of tenure-track faculty decrease,” McMaster said. “In many ways they’re the hard currency of higher education. Tenure is almost a lifetime commitment to the institution. These are the people who are going to be educating at Binghamton for their whole careers.”
He told Pipe Dream these statements did not pertain to BU directly, but reflected his general philosophy on higher education.
“To make those changes I’d have to come here and look at the existing structure, and see what the pedagogical needs were,” he said.
McMaster was sure to note that he finds adjunct faculty crucial to higher education as well.
“I’m not arguing to eliminate adjunct in any shape or form, I’m just saying let’s not shift the emphasis away from tenured and tenure track faculty,” he added.
To protect the identity of the candidates, Strehle said the names of the remaining four finalists will not be released until two days before they speak.
“In some cases the candidates don’t want their home campuses to know that they’re interviewing, so we’re trying to keep it as confidential as possible,” she said.
She said she expects the next provost will be hired in the next few weeks.