Provost candidate emphasizes importance of administrators’ ‘transparency’ and ‘communication’ with campus community

Angela Salas, candidate for provost, answers questions from the audience. (Donald Halsing / THE GATEPOST)

Angela Salas, associate vice chancellor of academic affairs at Indiana University Southeast, discussed the importance of supporting faculty and transparency in university policies at an open forum March 25. 

Salas, one of the three candidates in consideration for the position of provost and vice president of academic affairs, obtained a Ph.D. in English from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She is also the founding director of Indiana University Southeast’s honors program. 

Previously, she taught English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

During an open forum for the campus community, Salas said, “I can already tell this campus is welcoming. Students actually look you in the eye and say, ‘Hello.’” 

Community members were given time to ask Salas questions about her potential role as provost. 

Jon Huibregtse, history professor, asked Salas why she transitioned from teaching to academic affairs. 

Salas said she noticed communication between the administration and faculty members was not streamlined. “I like a challenge. I am able to take certain burdens away from faculty members because … I go and find the information they need and trouble [them] as little as possible.” 

She said her responsibility is to “lighten the load” of the faculty members “so they can do their jobs. That’s why they are here.” 

Virginia Rutter, professor of sociology and member of the Massachusetts State College Association bargaining team, asked Salas to elaborate on the role of provost in “repairing” the relationship between faculty and administration following “three years without a raise for faculty and librarians and two years without a funded contract.” 

Rutter asked, “What do you envision doing to repair this environment of distrust?”

Salas said, “The first thing would be to actually address it.”

She said there isn’t a “formula” for rebuilding the relationship, but that it begins with “honest conversations” about the expectations of both faculty and administrators. “It’s almost a blessing to have someone come in from the outside. They are a blank piece of paper.” 

She added, “I’m emotionally entangled in justice and fairness and in everyone getting a fair shot. But it’s not about getting you to like me. … The first and best thing is to acknowledge that thing – that we have a problem.” 

Salas said she works from a model of “building from the end. What do you want the outcome to be? If we can collectively decide where we want to end up, we work from there.” 

Salas also addressed faculty concerns regarding diversifying campus policy and academic decisions. 

Lina Rincón, sociology professor, said the University is in its “infancy” regarding implementing diversity initiatives and asked how Salas planned to ensure diversity is at the forefront of policy and academic decision making in her role as provost. 

Salas said, “We hold this valuable endeavor in common trust. We would move from there. … We would need to have some conversations about what must feel like a profound rupture in some peoples’ vision of Framingham State. We can only have a sense of moving forward if we can see where people are disagreeing with each other.” 

She said the most important part of fostering diversity is following the lead of community members who “have a sense of urgency for change” and supporting those missions. She said, “We are all stakeholders in this,” and the entire community is responsible for “cultivating” change. 

A student forum was held the same day, but due to lack of advertising, only three students attended. 

Ben Carrington, SGA president, asked Salas to talk about an accomplishment in her career. 

Salas discussed her university’s goal to bolster retention of first year students. “If you don’t manage to get from the beginning of your studies to your end, it’s an unmitigated problem.” 

She said, “We were able to bring the issues to faculty and departments as necessary.” She discussed how the team she led was able to reconfigure “gateway classes” that were causing students to drop out after failing the course.

She said, “I’m proud that my colleagues in two different departments were able to create co-requisite courses” that allowed struggling students an opportunity to persist through the first year. 

Salas is the first of four candidate visits to campus. The next open forum will be held April 3 at 1:30 p.m in DPAC.