Powers: UT Provost search will be localized, expedited in face of instability

Jordan Rudner

Referencing “instability on campus,” President William Powers Jr. said the search process for the new provost will occur on a smaller scale than normal and will likely not include a pool of candidates from outside the University.

Powers, who addressed Faculty Council on Monday, said the search for a new provost will include communication with faculty but will ultimately be a more expedited process than typical. Steven Leslie, executive vice president and current provost, announced last month he will be stepping down at the end of August.

Tensions between Powers and the UT System Board of Regents, which have been ongoing since 2011, have increased in recent months and were on display during the most recent board meeting. The regents subjected Powers to a lengthy period of intense questioning uncharacteristic of board meetings.

“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 … The process of going about looking for a provost with a full, natural search or normal committee will be difficult to do.”

Powers said the internal search for a provost will look for potential candidates among current and former deans and department chairs, among others. He said he will make extensive efforts to communicate with faculty.

“[Faculty members] and I have talked about how we’d like to go forward with this, and about how we can expedite the search and make it a little bit more nimble,” Powers said.

Powers also updated the faculty council on the state legislature’s higher education budgeting efforts, and said he is optimistic legislators will restore a portion of the cuts made to the University during the previous session. 

“I’d say the legislative efforts are going around a B+, maybe an A-,” Powers said. “It’s going pretty well down there.” 

Martha Hilley, council chairwoman and music professor, announced that the UT System would likely not be contesting a state push for outcomes-based funding. Hilley said Barry McBee, vice chancellor for governmental regulations, told the UT System Faculty Advisory Council of the decision earlier this month. 

“[McBee] said it was just not worth the political fight to be against it,” Hilley said. “He said it was better if the System just quietly folded on this issue.”

Steve Mintz, executive director of the Institute for Transformational Learning, spoke to the council about the future of massive open online courses and said he was excited about the changing landscape of higher education. The University will be launching its first open courses in the fall.

“I am not here to abolish tenure, not here to replace flesh and blood teaching with screen time … [but] we are in a moment of reinvention,” Mintz said. “We need to seize this fleeting opportunity and take advantage of it.” 

The faculty council also unanimously passed a resolution encouraging the Board of Regents to work with the legislature and ultimately institute domestic partner benefits for UT employees. The UT System Faculty Advisory Council recently passed a similar motion.

Printed on Tuesday, March 19, 2013 as: Provost likely internal hire