Dr. Joe Ritter will most likely move from Assistant Dean of Academics to Dean of Faculty as of July 1, said Dean of Academics Dr. Scott Schneberger.
This move is likely to happen despite faculty concerns that it will make Schneberger less accessible. Ritter said faculty members are worried it will create “silos”, although he said he does not quite understand that concern.
“I’ve heard little faculty feedback,” he said while noting that the feedback he has heard has been from the unit heads. “I trust that anyone will let me know if they have concerns.”
Emails expressing specific points of concern came from the Humanities Unit and the Academic Staff Unit. In an email sent to Schneberger, the head of the Humanities Unit, Greg Sandford, explained that his unit’s concern was that the move could negatively affect communication between teaching and learning focuses and planning and support focuses.
Another faculty concern expressed in this email was that currently Ritter, as Assistant Dean of Academics, is not included in Dr. Palmer’s cabinet. If Ritter were to take over as Dean of Faculty, there could be a greater distance between the higher administration and faculty, especially if there were to continue to be no faculty representation on the cabinet.
Schneberger said that if there is enough faculty concern, he would provide an avenue for them to express themselves. “I haven’t heard of a compelling reason not to do it,” he said. “All I’ve heard are good reasons to do it.”
Religion Professor and Faculty Senate President Mike Hamilton said his understanding of the reasons presented for the change is to provide clearer lines of communication and responsibility. Hamilton expressed a history of faculty sentiment that Schneberger is often inaccessible and added that the faculty is afraid he will become even less available if the switch is made.
“I am worried, especially as small as we are, since Scott essentially does the hiring and firing, that the communication really needs to be open,” said Hamilton. “There can’t be a disconnect.” Schneberger said that if the switch in Ritter’s title does take place, Ritter would be put in charge of hiring and firing faculty members.
He also said he is not sure if the faculty concern is rational. He said the switch will not alter their experience. He pointed out that Ritter is already acting as his representative to the faculty.
Hamilton speculated, however, that Ritter might become a “go-between” for Schneberger and the faculty if the plan goes through, suggesting that it is not currently the official set-up as Schneberger implied.
The potential plan to change Ritter’s position from Assistant Dean of Academics to Dean of Faculty was first given to the faculty in an email on March 10, said Ritter. He and Schneberger were supposed to discuss it over spring break. This discussion was put off when the two had to find replacements for Mass Communication professors Craig Savoye and David McFarland.
In explaining the reason for this potential restructuring of the deanship, Ritter pointed to Policy 11, the policy of continuing improvement. He said the reason for considering this proposal is to see if there is a better way to run things. Ritter declined to share his ideas about what his new position might look like because he said he felt that the faculty should be the first to know.
While Ritter insisted that this is a proposal merely to consider a restructuring of his and Schneberger’s roles, Schneberger said the plan will mostly likely go forward on July 1. While Ritter said that the two have not figured out what the switch will mean and that “Dean of Faculty” is just an idea for his potential title, Schneberger has diagrams that show exactly the change entails.
While Schneberger said this change would not alter the faculty’s current experience of communicating through Ritter, he still feels it is a change and that it is needed to alter the responsibilities between himself and Ritter.