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UNIVERSITY PRESS

Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.

UNIVERSITY PRESS

Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.

UNIVERSITY PRESS

I officially announce my resig-Shh!

NEWS

Several things happened on the third floor of the administration building last week. Dean Manjunath Pendakur resigned. Days later, his boss, Provost Diane Alperin, was served with a list of comments on the dean’s performance. Pendakur said the two are not connected — he just feels it’s time to teach and learn again.

On March 18, Alperin announced to the university that Pendakur would continue his term as dean until the end of the spring semester in May, at which point he will go on “study leave” and return in January 2012. Then he will become a professor in the communication school, a track in tune with his education. The announcement listed Pendakur’s financial contributions to the university.

As dean, Pendakur oversees the College of Arts and Letters, a multimillion dollar budget, scores of faculty and tenure decisions. The college offers 26 bachelor’s degrees, 22 graduate degrees and 11 certificates, according to www.fau.edu.

The announcement failed to mention, however, the lawsuit and string of grievances filed against Pendakur from the department of philosophy last year. But according to his email, Pendakur — whose salary is $207,050 and will remain as such throughout his sabbatical — did not step down because of the controversy or the consecutive faculty evaluations that demanded his resignation. Instead, he claimed that the reasons for his resignation were in his resignation letter.

The closest to a reason in that letter appeared in the last paragraph: “It is time for me to return to my scholarship once again and to the classroom.” Why it is time for that, however, Pendakur refused to say. According to the opening line of his letter, he may not know himself: “It is with mixed feelings that I am submitting this letter of resignation from the position of Dean.”

Pendakur refused to be interviewed by phone or in person, relying instead on email because he would rather his “responses be in writing.” His email responses, however, almost entirely ignored the UP‘s questions.

Provost Alperin, part of her duties being overseeing the deans, avoided an in-person or phone interview more directly, claiming she was “out of town at a Board of Governors meeting.” According to an FAU spokeswoman, however, Alperin was only out of town Tuesday and Wednesday of last week, leaving plenty of time for the requested interview.

James Tracy, president of the faculty union that is responsible for distributing, collecting and publishing the evaluations, was available for comment. He said that being a dean involves playing between the university’s interests and the faculty’s interests, and “that’s not easy.”

“I think that Pendakur did a fine job of representing the college in a public sense,” Tracy said. “But he could not negotiate that as an administrator with the faculty. In the dean’s defense, one is in the hot seat in that regard. It’s not an easy job.”

Tim Lenz, president of the faculty senate, said that the faculty aided in making the dean’s tenure and resignation controversial.

“I don’t know much about the decision-making process other than the fact that the Dean was up for his third-year review,” Lenz said. “The college faculty views and the results of the UFF administrator evaluations were probably taken into consideration as part of the review.”

The Faculty Assessment of Administrators is an annual effort undertaken by the FAU chapter of the United Faculty of Florida for faculty to anonymously rate and comment on the professional performance, decision-making and overall collegiality of deans and upper-level administrators throughout the university. A total of 871 professors, librarians and counseling staff represented by the union were invited to participate in the online evaluation.

A total of 95 faculty completed the survey from the College of Arts and Letters, a 50-percent increase over last year. In the comments section of the evaluation, 51 of them — more than half of those who participated — called for Pendakur’s resignation. Read them here.

Tracy, who sent the evaluations to the administration the weekend after Pendakur’s Thursday resignation, said that last year’s comments were similar to this year’s.

“After getting the responses in 09-10, it might not have been a bad idea to say to the dean: Look it, the people who are upset with your style — perhaps there’s a way of going about things differently,” Tracy said. “There’s definitely a pattern in terms of his management style. From what I gather, sometimes he was less formal than faculty expected him to be. It seems people took offense to some of his remarks.”

These people, or the faculty in the College of Arts and Letters, may be “difficult,” according to Tracy.

Jeffrey Morton, acting chair of the philosophy department, seems to agree.

“There are very difficult people to work with,” Morton said. “The problem isn’t the deans — the problem is the college.”

According to an early statement from Provost Alperin, the search for a new dean will begin shortly. Meanwhile, an interim dean will be selected from within the college to fill in until a replacement shows up. Requests for nominations from various departments were sent out last week.


Choke

Top FAU officials refuse to speak to the UP

On March 22, an FAU spokeswoman responded to the UP‘s request to interview Provost Diane Alperin and Dean Manjunath Pendakur about the dean’s resignation.

The UP asked why both of them refused to be interviewed by phone or in person. She wrote, “they are not refusing to be interviewed, rather the interview is taking place in writing.”

Questions were sent by email and responses were received quickly. Some of the answers didn’t answer the questions. The UP decided to provide a Q&A. The text below has not been edited by any member of the UP. Received on March 24:

 

Questions for Provost Diane Alperin

 

Why did you refuse to be interviewed in-person or by phone so I can attribute the reason?

Out of town at a Board of Governors meeting

1. Is FAU’s College of Arts and Letters experiencing a normal turn-around rate of deans or is 7 in 17 years abnormal? Why do you think the college has had so many deans? What can be done to remedy this?

The College of Arts and Letters is unique in that there are a vast number of disciplines housed in one College. Unlike the College of Nursing or Education where there is a main academic focus, the College of Arts and Letters has many disciplines ranging from political science to English. This type of College requires a unique leader, like Dean Pendakur, that is well versed and challenged by the different disciplines and unique experts in these areas.

I’m unsure of the turnover rate at similar colleges. As the university moves forward in its search for a new dean, this is certainly something that will be evaluated and addressed.

2. Why did Dean Pendakur resign? Why did Pendakur resign now? Did his resignation have anything to do with the faculty evaluations which were sent to you days after he stepped down?

The dean indicated that he has been with FAU for several years now and has accomplished a great deal during his tenure. He stated he is interested in returning to scholarship and working on his book/doing research and spending time in the classroom.

3. Will the dean maintain his salary through his study leave?

Yes.

4. Comparing the evaluations from last summer with those of this spring in regards to Dean Pendakur, not much has changed except for a higher number of complaints. Were you surprised at this year’s results and comments? Did you take any measures to try to alleviate the complaints in last summer’s evaluation? If so, what did you do/say?

The dean and I had discussions regarding his resignation prior to me receiving the surveys. As you are aware, the dean announced his resignation on Thursday, March 17, and I didn’t receive the surveys until this past weekend.

I know there have been some faculty concerns regarding the dean’s leadership. I asked the dean to work with faculty on alleviating these concerns, and he took action in this regard.

 

Questions for Dean Manjunath Pendakur

 

Why did you refuse to be interviewed in-person or by phone so I can attribute the reason?

I prefer for my responses to be in writing.

1. Why did you resign? Why did you resign now?

This is detailed in my letter of resignation.

2. Did the president/provost ask you to resign? Did the faculty evaluations have anything to do with your resignation? Can you comment on the timing of your resignation against the timing of the publication of the faculty evaluations?

The reasons for my resignation are detailed in my letter of resignation. I was communicating with the provost regarding my resignation prior to seeing the faculty union survey. The president did not have any discussions with me in regards to my resignation.

4. What will you be studying during your study leave and will you publish anything in your absence? What classes will you be teaching when you return in Spring 2011?

As with all academic departments, the chair of the department will assign the courses for Spring 2012. During my study leave, I plan to work on a project that deals with globalization of media in India and the decline of journalistic standards and ethics.

5. As a respected scholar in film studies for many years with a very well-respected mentor, are you excited to be going back to pursuing more scholarly endeavors rather than administrative ones?

Absolutely excited! I will also look forward to working more closely with students in the classroom and in helping them develop research projects, an aspect of the academic life I have always enjoyed.

6. What do you hope to see in the college’s acting dean? In the college’s next official dean?

I’d like to see the next dean continue some of the important initiatives that we have launched, including the Middle East Studies Institute, and the expansion of academic and public service activities under the Peace Studies Program. The Living Room Theaters is a new and unique initiative that is already doing well, and it will help establish FAU as a major university in film studies. Our fine arts programs have grown substantially, and I hope they receive more sustained financial support. I’d also like to see continued growth in enrollment, research activities and community outreach.

7. Can you comment on the general nature of the evaluations from this spring as they relate to and about you? While some were vague and accusatory, others were specific and backed-up. Do you think any of the comments held any merit? Why or why not?

I review the survey results and value everyone’s opinion. Unfortunately, since the responses are anonymous, I can only review the information provided. I also understand that these opinions are not representative of the entire faculty within the College, as only approximately 50% of the college faculty participated.

 


Deaning house

Over the last 15 years, the College of Arts and Letters has had six deans. The UP found out how the other two top colleges fared.

DOROTHY F. SCHMIDT COLLEGE OF ARTS AND LETTERS

Dean James Malek *

Interim Dean Diane Alperin 1998-1999

Dean James Lamare 1999-2001

Dean William Covino 2001-2006 **

Interim Dean Sandra Norman 2006-2008

Dean Manjunath Pendakur 2008-2011

 

 

CHARLES E. SCHMIDT COLLEGE OF SCIENCE

Dean John Wisenfeld 1995-2001

Interim Dean Charles White 2001-2002

Dean Nathan Dean 2002-2006

Dean Gary Perry 2006-present

 

COLLEGE OF BUSINESS

Dean Bruce Mallen *

Dean Dennis Coates 2005-present**

 

[Source: FAU media relations]

*As of press time, the UP was unable to obtain years of service

**Dean served as interim for a segment of tenure listed

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