Smaller, faster search for provost begins today amid tension

AddThis

The search committee to find a University provost will meet for the first time Tuesday, beginning a process more expedited than is typical for the high-level position. 

The committee, led by President William Powers Jr., will consist of five other members. In contrast, the search committee that recommended outgoing provost Steven Leslie was a committee of 18. 

Leslie announced his resignation in February after serving for six years.

The process will also be shorter than previous provost searches have been. The search for Leslie began in May 2006, and he was appointed the following January. The search for Leslie’s replacement, which formally begins Tuesday, will be expedited so a new provost can be installed by the time he steps down in August.

“We want to be both thorough and expeditious in the search, given that Provost Leslie will be leaving his post fairly soon,” UT spokesman Gary Susswein said. 

The other five members of the committee are Faculty Council Chairwoman Martha Hilley; Ugeo Williams, Student Government vice president; Linda Hicke, dean of the College of Natural Sciences; Randy Diehl, dean of the College of Liberal Arts; and a staff member from the provost’s office.

At last month’s Faculty Council meeting, Powers spoke of potential difficulties the University would face when trying to find a provost. He said the process would occur on a smaller scale than previous provost searches, largely as a result of “instability on campus.”

“The process of going about looking for a provost with a full, natural search, or normal committee, will be difficult to do,” Powers said at the meeting. “We’re in a tricky situation.”

Tensions between the University and the UT System Board of Regents have been ongoing for the last two years. Two weeks ago, the Board took a 4-3 vote to continue an external review of the UT School of Law Foundation’s relationship with the University. At the meeting, Regent Steve Hicks told his colleagues they might as well take an outright vote on Powers’ continued employment.

“It would be simpler to me, instead of spending the money. If that’s the real goal, let’s just put that on the table and deal with it,” Hicks said. 

Beyond simplifying and expediting the search process, Powers said the scope of the search will also be minimized, and the new provost will likely be an internal hire.

“Given what we’ve been through and what we are going through, it will be very hard to get [a candidate] from off of the campus,” Powers said. “It’s not an impossibility, but it would be very hard.” 

Susswein said the University will likely open an application for the position once the committee begins its work. 

Printed on Tuesday, April 2, 2013 as: University fast-tracks search for new provost