Graduate students upset by dean selection process

Graduate students feel excluded by lack of involvement in the appointment of the new graduate dean.

Three finalists for the position of vice provost and dean of graduate education at the University of Minnesota were announced Monday; but many of the more than 10,000 graduate students at the University have been left feeling powerless by a perceived lack of inclusion in the dean selection process. “The lack of student involvement at any level in the University is troubling,” public policy graduate student and Council of Graduate Students (COGS) senator Devin Driscoll said. “There’s evidence that students are deeply interested and want to be involved, and we have the reasonable expectation that we should be.” Since the near elimination and subsequent reorganization of the graduate school earlier this year, students have tried to fight for more involvement in graduate school decisions. The administration solicited help from the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly (GAPSA ) and COGS to form two committees in the graduate school to target student and academic issues. According to COGS though, the administration took their recommendations of students for the committees, but then disregarded these suggestions and chose different students to fill the positions. “There are a lot of things the University has done on multiple occasions that say they support a shared governance, but then they don’t really back it up,” ecology, evolution and behavior Ph.D. student Pamela Weisenhorn said. Members of both GAPSA and COGS felt the graduate dean selection was no exception to the trend. Potential candidates were discussed over the summer, but students were left uninformed as to the candidates being considered. The dean search was kept internal in hopes that a dean coming from the University would better address the challenges within the University, Associate Vice President and Chief of Staff Sharon Reich Paulsen said. “Graduate students were absolutely included in the process,” Paulsen said. “Students and faculty participation has been welcomed.” Finalists for the graduate dean position were announced Monday, just one day before the first student and public forum. This left concerns with both GAPSA and COGS about the short amount of time to spread student awareness and ensure proper representation at the graduate dean forums, while also leaving many graduate students feeling in the dark about the selection process. “They assured us after all that we went through, that we would be closely involved in the graduate dean selection process,” GAPSA president and third year organizational leadership and policy development Ph.D. student Kristi Kremers said. “We don’t know enough information to carefully analyze the candidates with the care they deserve.” At yesterday’s student forum, dean candidate and professor and director in history of science and technology Sally Kohlstedt said she believes consulting graduate student groups, such as COGS, and transparency by the administration are critical. The dean selection committee will compile all of the opinions from the student and public forums, faculty, deans and other submissions and present a short report on each candidate to Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Tom Sullivan , who will then make the final hiring decision. “I think this process has gone very well,” assistant to Sullivan and graduate dean selection committee staff member Katherine Himes said. “I feel that, despite [the search taking place in the summer], we reached out very well to the campus.” COGS president and epidemiology Ph.D. student Mandy Stahre said the University needs to work on improving communication with graduate students to move forward constructively as a community and mend their damaged relationship. “You don’t become one of the top three research universities by screwing over graduate students,” she said. “[Graduate students] need to come together as a collective voice and say ‘we are not going to put up with this anymore.’”