Dean turnover affects college continuity

In Campus News, News
(Courtesy of the Division of Academic Affairs)

The College of Communications had four different deans in the past five years, highlighting a turnover trend that is common in other CSUF colleges and the administration.

The College of Health and Human Development and the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics each had three deans in the last five years.

There are currently five interim vice presidents in administration.

“This is an abnormally large number of dean turnovers. Much of that speaks to several folks retiring, and other folks moving on to do bigger and better things, probably not a super common thing, but it just kind of happened that way,” said David Forgues, vice president of Division of Human Resources, Diversity and Inclusion.

Forgues was hired May 11 after holding the position interim since January.

Having the absence of a leader can sometimes make it challenging to be really dynamic and forward thinking, said communications professor Cynthia King. The college needs someone to create a vision and follow through with it, she said.

“I think it’s hardest on you guys, the students. In many ways, it’s not something you might directly see but it’s who’s steering the ship and what direction does (the college) go, and it’s a big ship. It doesn’t stop on a dime,” King said. “It’s not that anything radical happens, but it just means that we’re not building up the momentum to have a big impact.”

King, a faculty member for 20 years, was a member of the search committee that recruited former College of Communications Dean Scott Paynton.

“It makes us all take responsibility,” King said. “(It makes us) figure what we want to do and where we want to be. I think it prepares us while we hopefully get a good dean and let him or her know that we have some ideas and we’re eager to get them implemented.”

King compared the search process to dating and said the College of Communications is “ready for a long-term relationship.”

Currently, the College of Communications has an acting dean serving in the position, which is the same position as an interim dean, just with a different title. The appointment of an interim or permanent position will not be made until the end of the semester, said Acting Dean Ed Fink.

“Of course, any time there is a change, there is certain disruption, but that’s what life is. People have to leave, they retire or they find a different job they want to do and you cannot control it,” said Interim Provost Anil Puri.

The search process for a new permanent dean at CSUF is extensive and can take longer than a semester.

When looking for dean candidates, five faculty members elected by the Academic Senate, the chair of the Academic Senate and his or her designee, two persons appointed by the president, one student appointed by ASI and two persons appointed by the provost and vice president of Academic Affairs make up the search committee, according to the University Policy Statement.

“If there’s a dean vacancy, then it’s up to the provost to figure out what the provost is going to do. Part of the challenge for Provost Cruz when he was here was that a lot of these happened at around the same time, and it takes a lot of resources to do a search for a dean,” Forgues said.

Being an interim does not have any official limitations, Forgues said. Interim positions have the same powers as permanent positions, but it makes sense to be more cautious with actions because of the temporary nature of the position, he said.

Despite being the interim provost, Puri said he does everything a permanent provost would do. He makes plans for the future without worrying whether he will be in the position to see them executed.

“Anyone who is in that position is trying his or her best to make sure it doesn’t affect the students’ experiences. I think that’s one of the reasons the process is rigorous and careful,” said Sheryl Fontaine, dean of Humanities and Social Sciences. “There’s generally enough consistency. Deans don’t reinvent the colleges when they come in … We guide them. It’s only after a little bit of time if there is any change in vision.”

The turnover at the dean level does not affect day-to-day life as a professor, but it affects morale within the college, King said.

“I think it affects morale,” King said. “I think it creates some uncertainty, particularly among some of the junior faculty, in terms of what this means and where we are.”

Dean turnover affects the university and its relationship with the community because there is not a steady “face” to speak for the college, faculty and students, King said.

“When we keep having a changing face, it’s hard to keep those relationships as strong as they should be,” King said.

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