And you wonder why people have problems with the way some American universities are run.

Donald Pope-Davis resigned as DePaul’s provost today after six months in the position…

Pope-Davis will teach and conduct research as a tenured professor in the psychology department in the College of Science and Health following a six-month sabbatical

Yes, all that meeting and greeting and sitting around learning things was so exhausting. Six months on; six months off. That’s the ticket.

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10 Responses to “Wow! The ol’ six and six!”

  1. TAFKAU Says:

    In such cases, of course, “resigned” is almost always a euphemism for “forced out”. It’s fairly standard practice in such cases to give a former administrator a semester or so to gear up their teaching and research, since most people at that level have been out of the classroom and the lab for quite a while. Without knowing why he stepped down, it’s hard to say what he does and doesn’t deserve, but at least on the face of it, this doesn’t seem like a big deal.

  2. Van L. Hayhow Says:

    “with a tenured track.” Does that mean he has tenure or does it mean he may get tenure in the future. Also, have to agree with the student who said the recruitment effort was defective if he jumped, or was pushed, only six months in.

  3. Margaret Soltan Says:

    TAFKAU: I agree that we don’t really know enough; but even so I’d say it’s a pretty big deal. The university spent lots of time and money on a national search; the search spectacularly and almost immediately imploded. The person in place in the position for some time has been interim; now the poor woman has to go back on interim duty. What’s the deal? This is the provost.

    I also think rewarding him (especially if he was forced out) with a long sabbatical is a big deal, especially when looked at from the point of view of people outside the academy.

  4. Margaret Soltan Says:

    Van: I think that’s a mistake in the article. The guy will go into a tenured position.

  5. TAFKAU Says:

    UD, I’ve seen this sort of thing happen more than a couple of times. You probably have, too. New people come in and, for some reason, they just don’t fit in. Maybe they’re not the right personality for the campus culture. Maybe they find themselves running up against a micromanaging president. Maybe they are undermined by people who wanted an internal candidate to get the job. In my experience, new administrators (and especially those hired from outside) are most vulnerable during their first year on the job, when they are required to make tough decisions without any internal support system.

    If someone takes the job in good faith, works hard to succeed, operates with integrity, but simply doesn’t work out, I don’t think it’s inappropriate to give them a semester to sort things out and re-tool (or, with any luck, to find an escape hatch).

    You’re right, of course, that the general public would never understand something like this (and, since DePaul’s a private school, they don’t need to). But the general public also doesn’t understand tenure, sabbaticals, conference travel, Tuesday-Thursday teaching schedules, and a whole lot of other things we do.

  6. Margaret Soltan Says:

    TAFKAU: All true. But the reason the general public doesn’t understand these things is that some of them are hard to justify. And yes, DePaul’s a private school, but it gets plenty of tax breaks, about which the public does indeed have something to say.

  7. charlie Says:

    UD: DePaul has a law school, and receives, or at least when I lived/worked in Chicago, grants and scholies from the FEDS, as do most accredited law schools. Private or not, that kind of money makes any university publicly accountable. Even if they had no professional programs, the fact that so many of their undergrads have their loans federally backstopped should mandate public scrutiny…

  8. Contingent Cassandra Says:

    I’ve seen this scenario, too (with a Dean, not a provost), and agree that it’s a humanitarian approach to a difficult situation (in the case I saw, the former Dean got her year off — after a year or two on the job — came back to the department in which I was an adjunct, and spent the several years left before she was eligible for retirement as a useful, flexible member of the department, mostly keeping her head down but unquestionably pulling her own weight — definitely a best-case scenario played out by someone with considerable integrity. It probably also helped that she hadn’t left the classroom for long, if at all, and so could re-up without major difficulty. I tend to think that that should be a qualification for any administrator who negotiates a contract that allows hir to return to the teaching as a soft landing should the administrative appointment fail).

    However, when you take into account that 70% of faculty nationwide aren’t eligible for a sabbatical — or often, at least from a financial standpoint — for a summer off (because they’re not on the tenure track), and even tenure-track faculty in many places aren’t getting sabbaticals because of budget cuts (or are settling for one semester when they can get them, because stagnant salaries make it harder to afford a year at half-pay), this looks a little more like an unjustifiable perk. I’m not sure exactly how you’d plug him into the teaching roster before September, or at least late May, but there’s probably something useful he could do. For instance, being a (way overpaid) tutor in a writing/learning center might be a good way to get to know the student body, and prepare for teaching. Our writing center, at least, has way more demand than it can afford tutors to handle. Or, since he’s a psychologist, running experiments. Or there’s always processing plagiarism cases. Or assessment. A psychologist should have the skills for that, and I suspect that even private universities have plenty of assessment tasks to complete.

  9. Margaret Soltan Says:

    Contingent Cassandra: All excellent ideas to make him useful. But there’s ye olde ego/prestige problem…

  10. Mr Punch Says:

    Bear in mind, too, that the semester has already started. He can’t teach until the next semester anyway. Failed search, obviously, but what’s the alternative now? Some form of unpaid leave?

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