Hot Springtime for Sheridan

UH faculty discontent targets the controversial provost

Provost Sheridan declined an interview. UH spokesman Mike Cinelli denies that proposed bylaws authored by Sheridan would eliminate faculty input when it comes to governing the campus.

"It doesn't change anything about the appointment of the faculty chairs by the dean," says Cinelli. "The faculty is very heavily involved in the selection process. It's not the dean just arbitrarily picking someone."

A source supplied The Insider with a draft of the new bylaws, which appear to eliminate traditional faculty elections for department chairs.

From left: Professors Buzzanco, Gonzalez and Lence are critical of Sheridan.
Deron Neblett
From left: Professors Buzzanco, Gonzalez and Lence are critical of Sheridan.

According to the document, a search committee for chair candidates would be set up with members approved by the dean and with a committee head appointed by the dean. The dean may require that the committee recommend more than one candidate, and ultimately the dean would appoint the chair. The chair serves at the dean's pleasure, and can be removed at any time. The document says nothing about a vote of department faculty.

According to Cinelli, "Everybody's entitled to express their views on things, and that's all we're going to say about it. The bylaws that we're putting in place across the campus are to give us a unified academic governance. Any university is going to do the same thing: operate from an organized and well-thought-out structure."

Political science professor Ross Lence, a distinguished endowed chair who also directs undergraduate studies in the college, focuses on the alleged violation of state and university nepotism policies in the hiring of Kathy Sheridan. Lence says the appointment "dampened the credibility of the university at large." He contends the presence of both Sheridans in the academic structure is "a suspect arrangement at best, if not an illegal one."

What's more important, notes Lence, "in this fledgling new college, [is] the credibility of the dean of the college is compromised as well." The faculty doesn't believe there can be any independence "as long as the wife of the provost is sitting there listening to the most important questions of finance, academic agendas and other sorts of matters."

As for the nepotism accusations, Cinelli says the duties of the two Sheridans do not overlap, and potential conflicts would be resolved by having the provost recuse himself and let Smith handle matters.

Carp says his contacts with the provost's office were frequent in his 18 years as an associate dean. He believes Kathy Sheridan's position and connection to the provost are intimidating to other campus officials. He recalls a conversation with a department chairman after a meeting in Achenbaum's office.

"We were talking about something that had to do with Ed Sheridan, and he suddenly shushed me and said, 'No, no, no, don't talk too loud. Kathy's office is just down the hall, and she'll hear and she'll report it back.' I was thinking, my God, this is like Nazi Germany or something. 'Don't say this because another party member is here.' "

The chancellor has agreed to Lence's request for a meeting on the nepotism issue. Buzzanco likens current unrest to the situation eight years ago.

"What's happening now is very similar," says the professor. "We call ourselves 'the progressive faculty association,' and we've talked about circulating letters and petitions. This time, there's a far more diverse group of people who are fed up. There's really a consensus that this has gone too far and the idea of shared governance between the faculty and the administration is just a sham. Something's got to give."

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