Nearly half of the academic deans at CSUF are in temporary positions after the firing of former library dean Clem Guthro

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A list of temporary and permanent academic deans at Cal State Fullerton.
(Anita Huor / Daily Titan)

With the firing of Clem Guthro as library dean and the appointment of his interim replacement Emily Bonney, nearly half of Cal State Fullerton’s academic deans are now temporary.

“It is not good for the university to have so much of the senior leadership in interim positions,” said Academic Senator Jon Bruschke.

Bruschke said he believes the tradition of college deans as being distinguished faculty members has shifted to a “more corporate” model, with personnel only expected to fill positions for a limited set of years.

“You’re in a permanent state of having two or three of those positions open, and it makes any long-term planning difficult,” Bruschke said.

According to university policy, deans are found by search committees that include persons appointed by the president and provost.

But President Fram Virjee, as well as Kari Knutson Miller, provost and vice president of academic affairs, are both serving in temporary capacities as each of their current positions at CSUF started on Jan. 1.

After Guthro’s abrupt firing, searches began for two associate deans of the Pollak Library. One associate dean would be in charge of collections and scholarly communications, while the other would head administration and operations. The positions were posted with applications on April 13, one month after Guthro’s dismissal.

While no candidates for those positions have been announced, some members of the CSUF community have speculated that Guthro’s firing may have discouraged interest.

“They’re not going to be able to get anybody of any stature. The word is going to get out. Who’s going to want to come to Cal State Fullerton if they’re treated like that?” said Beverly Toy, Pollak Library patron and UC Irvine librarian emeritus on March 14, whose husband Ernest Toy was Pollak’s founding librarian.

While Bruschke said he couldn’t speak on how the news of Guthro’s firing would affect external candidates, he said “There have been a number of times where a well-liked member of the campus is suddenly and unexpectedly dismissed.”

Bruschke said the dismissals could prove a drag on the university’s internal morale.

“The approach has been to say it’s a personnel matter and they’ll reveal no information at all,” he said. “To simply never offer an explanation creates a climate that doesn’t have a lot of trust in it.”

The library’s interim dean, Emily Bonney, previously served as temporary assistant vice president of academic human resources.

Searches are also underway for a permanent dean of the College of Engineering & Computer Science, whose current interim Dean Susamma Barua is seeking to make her term permanent, as well as a permanent dean for the Mihaylo College of Business and Economics, currently under the leadership of temporary Dean Morteza Rahmatian.

The dean positions for both colleges have found their candidates, all of whom have visited campus to hold dialogue with faculty, students and staff.

Candidates for the dean position at the College of Engineering & Computer Science, aside from Barua, are Houssam Toutanji, dean of the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Western Michigan University, and Kevan Shafizadeh, associate dean of the College of Engineering and Computer Science at Cal State Sacramento.

For the Mihaylo College dean position, the candidates are Walfried Lassar, associate dean of the Alvah H. Chapman, Jr., Graduate School of Business at Florida International University, and Rajib Sanyal, dean of the Willumstad School of Business at Adelphi University.

There is no active search underway for a permanent Dean of the College of Communications, currently under the leadership of temporary Dean Edward Fink.

David Forgues, who went from temporary to permanent vice president of Human Resources, Diversity and Inclusion in May 2017, said on April 19 that a dean’s ability to raise money for their college has become a priority.

“We raise a lot more money now than we used to,” Forgues said. “Fundraising has definitely increased in the dean portfolio, mostly because it has in the Cal State University system.”

But Forgues said the search for a college dean still encompasses a variety of considerations.

“You look for someone who can support your faculty. You look for someone who can be a good steward of the work of the college. You look for someone who can bring people together around the goals that the college is trying to attain. You look for someone who can raise money,” he said. “We’re looking for someone who can be an effective campuswide leader.”

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