In May, Krishnaswami Srihari announced his plans to resign, roughly 10 years after he became dean of the Watson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. But in the weeks before classes started this semester, he reversed his decision following hiring struggles caused by a freeze implemented by Binghamton University.
Srihari said he changed his mind about the move after discussing his resignation with Donald Nieman, BU’s provost and executive vice president for academic affairs.
“In consultation with the provost, I have rescinded my request to step down from my role as dean of the Watson School,” Srihari wrote in an email to Watson faculty. “I would like to thank the [BU President Harvey Stenger] and the provost for the confidence reposed in me. Without your dedication, diligence and support, I would not be able to continue in my current role.”
A job search was launched to find Srihari’s replacement in fall 2018, headed by a team of faculty at the Watson school. Because Srihari’s announcement was early, they were given a year to look for applicants to fill the leadership gap. But last year, a long-overdue contract was formalized between SUNY and United University Professions (UUP), a higher education union for faculty, professional staff, contingent employees and retirees of the SUNY system. It gave faculty and staff across the SUNY system a 2 percent pay increase, and stipulated that they would receive two years of back pay. New York state ultimately refused to cover the total cost of the raises, deflecting them onto BU and other universities in the SUNY system, and plunging BU into financial turmoil. Because of the crisis, a hiring hold was put in place and Srihari agreed to temporarily resume his role, giving the department more time to search for candidates and navigate the hold.
“In November 2018, we announced a hiring hold, which meant that we had to postpone the search,” Nieman wrote in an email. “Because Dean Srihari is so devoted to Watson, he agreed to remain as dean for another year, until the summer of 2020. We are resuming the search this fall, and I am confident we will recruit an outstanding candidate because Watson has become a top-rated engineering school, thanks to Dean Srihari’s leadership.”
As dean, Srihari oversaw the growth of the Watson school. In his time, he has seen an increase in both undergraduate and graduate enrollment, tenured track faculty, research funding and rankings, according to Nieman. But Srihari also said he has ambitions outside of the dean position. According to his profile on the University website, he has several interests in research and teaching — primarily in refining the health care delivery process using systems engineering.
Nieman said he is grateful for what Srihari has sacrificed for the Watson school.
“Deans have very demanding positions, and Dean Srihari worked long hours every day of the week,” Nieman wrote. “After a decade, he decided that it was time to step away and return to his position on the faculty, where he has always been very successful as a researcher, a teacher and an advisor of graduate students. It was a sacrifice for him because he was really looking forward to a well-deserved research leave and to return to the life of a faculty member.”