Local News

Faculty Panel Votes To Censure N.C. State Chancellor

Posted January 22, 2003

— A faculty advisory committee voted Tuesday to censure North Carolina State University Chancellor Marye Anne Fox for her decision to fire two top administrators this month.

The N.C. State Faculty Senate voted 29-6 to criticize formally Fox for the dismissals of C. Frank Abrams and Bruce Mallette, who both worked in the campus provost's office.

Fox fired the pair Jan. 7 after Provost Stuart L. Cooper refused to fire them himself. The next day, Cooper resigned in protest after 17 months as the school's chief academic officer under Fox, whose job is essentially N.C. State's chief executive officer.

Fox last week told the same faculty committee that the provost's office had failed to bring her important information on issues such as departmental budgets, graduation rates, faculty recruiting and crowded classes. She said she needed a team she could communicate with quickly and easily and a provost she could trust to take care of issues when she was away.

The censure resolution has no binding effect but signals the displeasure of many professors at the state's largest university campus. The resolution will be sent to Fox and the university's board of trustees.

History professor Tony LaVopa said the firings are part of a trend since Fox arrived at the school in 1998 to exert her authority over which academic departments receive money and which don't.

The firings come at a time the provost's office, which manages academic issues at the school, is deciding which young professors are promoted and which will be asked to leave the school. Those professors who receive tenure get virtual lifetime job protection.

"The personnel decisions from all the departments are going up there right now to the provost's office," LaVopa said.

LaVopa said Abrams, who was senior vice provost for academic affairs, "had tremendous experience" dealing with faculty members and "dealt with them with great fairness and prudence and expertise."

"Her evaluation of their work performance and their service to this university is at considerable variance with that experienced by the faculty," he said.

Fox addressed the panel and defended the firings while saying she regretted the turmoil that resulted.

"This was not acting in a precipitous manner. This was well reasoned over a long period of many months," Fox said.

Fox's supporters on the Senate said her style has produced results at the Raleigh school with more than 28,000 students.

Fox "has raised the profile as a national and international university," said Richard Gilbert, a professor emeritus of wood and paper science.

Abrams and Mallette are among more than 1,300 N.C. State staffers who serve at the pleasure of the chancellor.

Abrams remains on N.C. State's payroll as a tenured agriculture professor, while Mallette, the former vice provost for academic administration, is still on the school's payroll for three months while working on a project, said university spokesman Tim Lucas.

Cooper is a tenured chemical engineering professor and is likely to see a cut in pay from his $225,000 job as provost.

Fox's boss last week noted that chancellors have full authority to terminate senior administrators. But Molly Broad, president of the University of North Carolina system, said Tuesday she took the faculty committee's vote "very seriously."

"Their vote to publicly censure her sends a troublesome signal that, if not addressed, will interfere with her ability to realize the long-term success of the campus," Broad said in a prepared statement.


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