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About The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current | View Entire Issue (May 1, 2000)
Retirement, job offers draw six deans, chancellor from UNL
by Kimberly Sweet V y
It all started with a couple retire
Then, there was a death in the uni
There were some more retire
ments. One dean left for a better job in
New Mexico. Another is leaving for a
job in Houston to be closer to her fam
After that, even more announced
they were leaving. It topped off with
Chancellor James Moeser’s
announcement on April 14 that he
would be taking the position as the
next chancellor of the University of
North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
At the end of the year, some look
at the number of positions open, the
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number being filled by interim per
sonnel and the number of search com
mittees being formed and ask one
question: Where is everyone going?
But many administrators at UNL
say they aren’t worried about the cur
rent state of flux. They say it isn’t a
reflection of the state of the university,
just a case of bad luck.
“I think we’ve had an unusual
combination of circumstances,” said
Richard Edwards, senior vice chan
cellor for academic affairs.
Three deans who retired this year
were no surprise, he said, because
their retirements were planned. Irv
Omtvedt, the vice chancellor of the
Institute of Agriculture and Natural
Resources, also plans retirement on
The university unexpectedly lost
its vice chancellor for business and
finance, Melvin Jones, last October.
He died of a heart attack while visit
ing Washington, D.C.
Another announcement came this
week that a university official would
be seeking interim status. Edwards
announced he would be taking six
months off to receive treatment for
multiple myeloma, cancer of the
blood plasma. He was diagnosed in
Edwards said he has been taking
radiation and chemotherapy treat
ments throughout the year. The third
and final step in the treatment is a
stem-cell transplant, which he will
undergo at the University of Nebraska
Medical Center in June. He said he
expects a six-month recovery time.
“The regimen is quite taxing, and
I need to spend some time away from
the office,” Edwards said. “But I’m
very encouraged by the prospects.”
On top of those positions, a num
ber of people left the university for
positions that represent personal
career advancements. Moeser,
Richard Durst, dean of fine and per
forming arts, and Brian Foster, former
dean of arts and sciences, all fit that
description, Edwards said.
A few weeks ago, Nancy
Rapaport, dean of the law college,
announced she would leave the uni
versity for the same position at the
University of Houston. But Rapaport
made it clear the reason she was leav
ing was to be closer to family.
Looking at all those numbers can
give one the wrong impression,
“It makes it seem like we have a
much larger turnover than we do,” he
James Griesen, vice chancellor
for student affairs, has been in his
^ I think it is unfortunate that through
a series of coincidences it has all hit
the university at once.”
future interim chancellor
position 14 years. This is the largest
amount of turnover during his tenure.
“We’ve never seen in my 14 years
as concentrated a period of executive
turnover as we seem to be experienc
ing,” he said.
But Griesen doesn’t think it has
anything to do with UNL. The aver
age tenure at any university for an
administrator is five to six years, he
Harvey Perlman, future interim
chancellor, said UNL isn’t the only
school dealing with turnover.
“Turnover in higher education is a
concern,” said Perlman, formerly
dean of NU’s law school. “The aver
age tenure for a law dean is only three
“I think it is unfortunate that
through a series of coincidences it has
all hit the university at once.”
Most administrators are mixed in
their feelings about how the large
number of vacancies actually will
Griesen said the large pool of
interim administrators running the
university probably will affect the
number of new initiatives instituted
because of a lack of time in the office.
He gives the example of the
Future of Nebraska Taskforce,
launched in 1998 by Moeser to boost
programs that had a chance to be the
some of the best in the nation.
“It would be unusual,” he said.
“Something like that is not likely to be
He said the other work of the uni
versity goes on, however.
Cynthia Milligan, dean of the col
lege of business administration, said
she wasn’t worried about the vacan
“We’ve got competent leadership
at all levels of the university,” she said.
Because administrators aren’t the
people teaching classes, Perlman said,
the effects of the administrative
vacancies won’t be felt in the class
rooms. What those in interim posi
tions have to work on is reducing the
effects felt externally.
“The turnover is felt more in the
broader constituency,” Perlman said.
“A chancellor forms relationships.”
When an administrator leaves,
those relationships end and have to be
rebuilt again, he said.
After the searches end and the
vacancies are filled, the university
might don a new appearance because
of new faces.
But many administrators said it is
doubtful that a change in personnel
would lead to a change in the institu
“We’ve charted our future, and
we’re determined to realize that,”
Search committees will look tor
candidates to take on the programs the
university has just begun.
“We’re not going to go back to a
blank piece of paper and say, ‘What’s
important now?”’ Edwards said.
New administrators will bring
their own ideas to positions, Milligan
said. As long as the overriding goal is
maintained, she said the university
would stay on track.
“I think each new person brings a
different leadership style,” she said.
“But we’re striving for excellence,
and that will continue.”
Griesen said the real key to con
sistency amidst change in leadership
is at the foundation. He said there isn’t
an unusual turnover for department ]
chairmen and chairwomen at the uni
versity. He also noted that the univer
sity will have a normal number of new
faculty hires next year.
As long as the people “delivering
the products” remain stable, he said,
the university will be able to continue
in its prescribed direction.
Edwards agreed, saying that facul
ty were the key to the advancement of
all the initiatives that came out of the
university this year -including the
Future of Nebraska Taskforce, the
Life Sciences Task Force and the
Freshman Year Experience Task
The next step will be to find some
one who will permanently steer the
vision of the university, Edwards said.
“I hope we will be able to attract a
new chancellor and deans in searches
who will be excited and attracted to
the university because they see the
accomplishments,” he said. “The
potential is here to continue the for
ward movement we’ve achieved.”
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