Reporter’s notebook: School of Dentistry must change, sources say

James Nord

Editor’s note: “Reporter’s Notebook” is an occasional blog that will feature worthwhile content left out of a news story.  It will also give reporters an opportunity to talk about challenges they faced while working on a story. Here’s a link to the story at hand. 

Many current and former faculty members were reticent to talk to the Daily about Dean Patrick Lloyd and his tenure at the University of Minnesota. Minutes from two October meetings of the School of Dentistry Faculty Consultative Committee obtained after the article was printed shed more light on the subject. The minutes reflect the views of current faculty members.

On Oct. 4, the dentistry FCC, a faculty governance organization, requested that concerns from members in the school be brought to interim Dean Judith Buchanan. A significant amount of the complaints regarded the four-person leadership structure of the Department of Primary Dental Care.

Faculty representatives addressed the issues with Buchanan on Oct. 17, roughly two weeks before the article came out. The following paraphrases faculty concerns and provides excerpts from the meeting minutes. Parts of the minutes have been edited for style.

Jill Stoltenberg, representing the dentistry Council of Faculty, another leadership organization, said the executive committee “has been polarizing and created tension for some Primary Dental Care faculty, and is a concern of faculty in the other School of Dentistry departments.” 

In the meeting, Buchanan defended her decision to create the committee and said she consulted with other dentistry department chairs, her associate deans, Vice President of Health Sciences Aaron Friedman and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Tom Sullivan.

“Dr. Buchanan stated that at no time did she, VP Friedman, or Provost Sullivan consider the School of Dentistry constitution, the governing law of the School.”

The FCC is tasked with interpreting and proposing amendments to the school’s constitution and bylaws. Since no allowance exists in the constitution for an executive committee to serve in a leadership role, the faculty said the arrangement would require an amendment or a one-time exception approved by a faculty vote. Concerns remained that “without such approval this would set a precedent for possible future action by the dean’s office.”

As for faculty concerns about impropriety, Buchanan questioned “the sentiment of School of Dentistry faculty and their concern about this being a negative public relations issue, wondering why then was the Minnesota Daily article initiated?”

Faculty responses are unclear from the meeting minutes.

The most interesting find in the meeting touches on the link between former Dean Lloyd and Buchanan. There were many strong statements to the Daily from faculty tying Lloyd and Buchanan together, from calling Buchanan “Lloyd’s henchperson” to simply referring to her as a member of Lloyd’s “inner circle.”

Lloyd recruited Buchanan to the University in 2005. They personally corresponded during the months after he left the school, but Buchanan’s responses to faculty concerns really solidify a more intangible element of the story — the connection between upper administrators, Buchanan and Lloyd.

Here it is:

“Interim Dean Buchanan stated that she was hired to continue the policies and programs established by Dean Lloyd.  She felt that there were no other faculty in the Department of Primary Dental Care who supported moving in this same direction.   Dr. Berthold’s expertise in pre-doctoral accreditation was taken into consideration when making the decision.  It was stated that others would not support this vision.”

Faculty asked why the vision was so “unique” that only this arrangement would work. 

“Dr. Buchanan stated that all of the facts can’t be revealed or disclosed publicly.”

And one last bit:

“Dr. Lloyd had a strong top down management style that appeared to create a stressful environment.  Dean Buchanan’s style may be different, but also may suffer as a result of a hangover to this previous style.  The FCC supports Dr. Buchanan as Dean, however, significant changes in administrative structure made outside Constitutional policies and without faculty approval sets a negative tone that appears to follow the style of the previous Dean.”

Look for more to come in the next few weeks.