FSU community sets expectations for top positions

Framingham State held an open forum on Dec. 12 to discuss expectations for candidates for the positions of provost and chief diversity and inclusion officer (CDIO).

Linda Vaden-Goad, the current provost and vice president of academic affairs, is retiring at the end of the 2018-19 academic year. Millie González, the current CDIO, was hired in an interim position in 2017. FSU is seeking to fill these positions.

Faculty and students were given the opportunity to provide input about the searches for provost and CDIO at the open forum and subsequent student forum, led by Sidney Ribeau and Bill Howard.

The University recruited Ribeau, former president of Howard University, to guide the search. It also hired Howard, vice president and senior consultant of Academic Search, a firm that helps universities with the search process for higher-level administrative positions.

During the open forum, attendees were given the opportunity to share the qualities and characteristics they are looking for in candidates for the next provost and vice president of academic affairs.

Howard said, “The purpose of this session is to get your input on priorities and challenges for each of those positions – some of the characteristics you think the committees should be looking for.”

Robert Donohue, a psychology professor, said, “There is a recurring problem when folks get hired into the role of provost and are unfamiliar with how the contract between the Massachusetts State College Association and the universities inform their work and perhaps inhibit their unilateral ability to impose decisions on campuses.”

He said, “I’m begging you that in the process of this search, the candidates be made aware of the nature of our collective bargaining agreement.

“Having a new provost come in and immediately declare they are annoyed or upset with the bargaining agreement they are facing is just unacceptable. It’s a non-starter, and it damages the institution,” he added.

Virginia Rutter, a sociology professor, said, “Divisions of the college seem to operate in silos rather than working across divisions.”

Richard Allen, a history professor, said he believes the University has “strayed away from the liberal arts education,” and other than leadership, he thinks the next provost should “have an awareness to, sensitivity to, and commitment to a well-rounded liberal arts education.”  

He added, “There should be an acknowledgment and appreciation of the talent and expertise that is to be found amongst the faculty here on campus.” 

Sandra Rahman, a marketing professor, said, “I would like someone who certainly respects our roots in the liberal arts area, but who also embraces the College of Business, which has a multitude of students, and its trajectory is quite positive.”

She added, “I’d like someone who isn’t afraid to stand up and really listen to people and make a decision that is right – not just cave in and make decisions that are convenient. … Someone who is not afraid to break that mold and represent all interests on campus.” 

After discussing the qualities they sought in the next provost, attendees were given the opportunity to discuss what they want from the next CDIO.

Patricia Sánchez-Connally, a sociology professor, said the qualities many hope for in the next provost also apply to the qualities many hope for in the next CDIO. 

She said the FSU community “would love someone who is able to acknowledge and understand the challenges that students, faculty and staff of color face in an academic setting.” 

Sánchez-Connally added she’s looking for a CDIO who is comfortable using terms such as “race, racism, people of color, and students of color” to not only “pinpoint problems,” but also to “identify the solutions to those problems.”

She added, “We’re looking for someone who is comfortable standing up – not caving in – familiar with the types of challenges we face, and able to use the correct language to pinpoint those things.”

Vandana Singh, a physics professor, said, “There is a corporatized version of diversity. … The main concern is making the campus look good. We don’t want a person like that. We want a person who is genuine, who is willing to come to classrooms to talk to students.”

She added, “In the STEM area, we have one of the most diverse student bodies, and yet, what I feel like we need from a chief diversity officer is an understanding of diversity issues in STEM.” 

She said many faculty are not trained to properly discuss incidents of racial bias with their students, and the next CDIO should be someone who can help faculty have these conversations.

Hannah Jones, a junior, said, “One thing I think students are looking for in the new CDIO is someone who isn’t afraid to push past boundaries, stand up for what’s right, work toward what’s good in the community, and bring everyone together.” 

Carlos Barbosa, a sophomore, said he believes the next CDIO “should have eagerness to have dialogue with students, faculty, and everyone else in the community in general because my experience here so far is that no one’s talking to anyone about anything. 

“With that being said, it starts with the students in the classroom talking to their professors. But those professors need to be trained how to have these conversations and address these issues.”

He added the next CDIO “should not be afraid to ask for help, because no one is perfect.”

Xavier Guadalupe-Diaz, a sociology professor, said he’s looking for a CDIO who is going “to increase faculty buy-in” and make inclusion and diversity a “big-time approach.”

Stefan Papaioannou, a history professor, said the “University is a stepping stone” for past administrators and it’s “disruptive.” He said the next CDIO should be “up for challenges and sticking with it for the long haul.”

Patricia Lynne, an English professor, said what she would like to see in the next provost and CDIO is someone who is “invested in our students.” 

She said, “Students who come here want what we offer, but they don’t always necessarily know how to get it. They need people who can help them make those connections.”

Time was also set aside specifically for students to discuss what they wanted to see in both candidates.

Adam Scanlon, a senior, said the University should look for a provost who will “embed social and emotional core competencies into the curriculum.” 

He added, “I think we need someone that has a well-versed background and understands the liberal arts model, and other models as well to really make sure we’re getting the best education to the students we have here.”  

Cori Farrow, a junior, said, “Something I think would be beneficial for the CDIO position is some sort of background in community organizing or activism.”

She added the next CDIO needs to have a “fundamental understanding of what oppression is – who it affects and who it doesn’t affect.” She also believes they should be someone “who isn’t afraid to apply this to different situations.” 

Ben Carrington, SGA president and senior, said both positions are “vital to our campus.”

He added, “I think it’s critical to have people that are future-oriented in terms of expanding the curriculum we already have.”

Of the next CDIO, Kaila Walters, a senior, said, “I think it’s important to find someone who identifies with the perspectives of the students rather than just the administration and the faculty.

“I think a lot of times, we see people in other positions go along with what the administration is telling them is correct, and I think it’s really important for the next person to understand the perspectives of the students,” she added.

Taylor Anderson, a sophomore, said she thinks the University needs to fill the positions with people who are “legitimately passionate about what they’re doing. Not just someone who is working for their paycheck.”

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