Butler University students returned from the semester break to find a newly appointed interim provost who could serve in that position for as long as three semesters.
Even an interim appointment has the authority to change the focus or goals of his or her department, and this can change the experience of hundreds if not thousands of students.
Top administrators should recognize that the choices they make about higher faculty and staff positions affect large portions of the Butler community, and these effects are more than political.
We at The Butler Collegian believe that at the very least, the administration should give students a chance to meet and voice concerns to all perspective members of the university’s leadership, particularly provosts, since students are members of the affected community.
Recently, President Jim Danko appointed psychology professor Kathryn Morris as interim provost after Jamie Comstock announced she was stepping down from her position.
The university sent out an email naming Morris as the interim provost and detailing the reasons for the decision on Dec. 21 of last year.
In making that decision, it was a mere few weeks before most students would have much of a chance to interact with their new provost.
This is not to say that students should have had any real authority to make the decision, but it is reasonable to suggest that, as members of the community, they would at least bear witness to this change.
The president has the authority to make these appointments, and we are not doubting his choice.
Still, there is room and even cause for a change in precendent; students deserve at least an observational role in the process.
The administration made its decision and consulted faculty in the form of forums.
At Faculty Senate on Dec. 6, Danko also asked for input from the Butler faculty.
Instead of questioning the decision, this is a matter of principle.
The provost has immense authority to shape the future of the university.
Students should at least be able to observe and meet with appointees who have as much authority as a dean, provost or president.
If the interim provost was only going to be serving for a short time, the matter might be a different story.Danko told Faculty Senate on Dec. 6 that the appointment could last from six to 18 months.
That means that for most juniors and seniors, Morris may be functionally the same as a permanent provost.
Frustration also stems from the idea that announcements are not released to inform the most students, staff and faculty possible but to maximize smooth transitions.
The university has the right to release or withhold information as it sees fit, but Butler’s administration should not operate solely as a private business entity even if it can.
This is a new idea; students having opportunities to formally meet new provosts has not typically characterized Butler’s past.
It’s also in keeping with the idea of a liberal arts college in such a small community. Even on the personal, non-professional level, little changes can have big ripples.
The administration should definitely try to keep the university running smoothly, but they should also keep members of the community informed.
Knowledge should move freely in a place of higher learning.