AAUP Censure Could Hinder Philander Smith’s Search for President
LITTLE ROCK, Ark.
Philander Smith College will have the handicap of censure by a nationwide faculty group as it seeks a new president.
Dr. Trudie Kibbe Reed, 56, is leaving Philander Smith after six years as its president to take the same job at Bethune-Cookman College in Daytona Beach, Fla.
In Washington, D.C., the American Association of University Professors held its national meeting last month and voted to add Philander Smith to its list of censured institutions.
That’s a list of schools where members of the organization believe faculty members don’t get a fair shake, because their rights are abridged. The presence of a school on the list can make it difficult for a school to find quality faculty members.
“Anybody who has read the report will have a hard time seeing how this could be a close call,” said Jordan E. Kurland, associate general secretary for AAUP. “Those familiar with what is important to us can see it’s pretty clear.”
The AAUP released its report in January. It claims Reed weakened due-process rules and unfairly fired instructors at the 850-student historically Black school.
Reed disputes the criticism, saying the report is inaccurate and shows only one side of the story.
In the meantime, trustees and supporters for the liberal arts college have started a national search to replace Reed. The effects of an AAUP censure on the search aren’t clear.
Elijah Harris, chairman of Philander Smith’s board of trustees, said censure amounts to little more than opinion.
“There are two sides to every story, and I believe that all of our candidates will want to hear the side of the school,” he said. “I personally don’t feel it will have any effect on our campus.”
The AAUP’s Kurland, however, said that group often hears from job applicants who say they withdrew from a search because a school was on the censure list.
“A person does not usually consider it a step up in his or her career to go to a censured institution,” he said. “Our experience … is that censure is a hindrance in getting qualified people to apply.”
But he added that some candidates may take censure as a challenge, seeing it as an opportunity to make a mark by dealing with problems that led to the action, and getting the school removed from the list.
When Dr. Lu Hardin was chosen as the new president of the University of Central Arkansas in September 2002, he said one of his first goals was removal of UCA from the AAUP censure list. After nearly three years, on the list, UCA was removed last summer.
School officials say they expect to appoint a new president by the end of the year. Interviews for Reed’s replacement could begin as early as August, said the Rev. Janice Riggle Huie, bishop of the United Methodist Church of Arkansas, with which the school is affiliated. Huie chairs the search committee.
— Associated Press
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