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Iowa State provost Elizabeth Hoffman still being considered as president of UNM

James Monteleone, Albuquerque Journal, N.M.

A group of University of New Mexico faculty members argued Friday that two of the five presidential finalists are a bad fit for UNM and should no longer be considered.

More than 30 faculty attended a forum to debate the strengths of each finalist.

They took no formal action, but almost unanimously agreed that neither Kent State provost Robert Frank nor former University of Arizona provost Meredith Hay should get the nod to be UNM’s next president.

The opinions will be shared with regents, who are scheduled to decide on a president Jan. 4.

Faculty said after talking to peers at the candidates’ home universities and listening to public forums, they concluded that Frank and Hay lack a sufficient record of teamwork with faculty to improve UNM.

Talking about Frank’s record, a Kent State professor “said he’s a piece of work.
He does the bidding of the powers that be; that he’s extremely aggressive; he’s antagonistic to faculty. She didn’t know of any faculty that liked him; he just rammed stuff through,” said anthropology professor Lawrence Straus. “… He had publicly called the faculty pathetic. This is the candidate that’s unacceptable to me.”

Frank could not be reached for comment. His Kent State colleagues told the Journal the provost developed a reputation for accomplishing change, but drew protest from professors who opposed doing things differently.

Some UNM faculty said Frank, in his public forum, carried himself like a bully who was being pestered by them.

“I think he’d make a fine leader at a military academy,” said libraries professor Daniel Barkley. “I think what really bothers me the most was his really caustic approach to the faculty that asked him questions.”

The group expressed similar distaste for former University of Arizona provost Meredith Hay, saying she failed to communicate significant institutional changes with faculty there in the face of $180 million in budget cuts over three years.

Hay was a finalist to be UNM president in 2007 before working at Arizona, and at the time was the faculty’s top pick for the job. After recommending Hay in 2007, UNM faculty said they want to rely more heavily on proven administrative experience than the candidates’ polished public presentations. A majority of Arizona faculty who participated in a 2009 leadership survey reported “no confidence” or “low confidence” in Hay’s work as provost.

She told the Journal earlier those people were reacting to her budget cuts. She said she also tried to improve relationships afterward.

“We did some digging; we asked a lot of colleagues. I was impressed at the uniformity of tremendously negative views,” said math professor Evangelos Coutsias. UNM faculty said the other finalists, University of Idaho provost Douglas Baker, Iowa State provost Elizabeth Hoffman and Texas AandM professor Elsa Murano all have positive attributes and leadership potential.

Regents President Jack Fortner said the board will take faculty recommendations seriously in making its selection. Input from other university groups will also be considered, he said. “What the faculty want is very important. It’s a very important part of the puzzle,” he said.

©2011 the Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, N.M.)

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