Weeks later, some faculty still concerned over COO hiring

Tension rose at Oakland University’s Board of Trustees (BOT) meeting on Dec. 2 over the new Chief Operating Officer (COO) position.

Barry Winkler, professor emeritus from biomedical sciences, voiced concerns about how Scott Kunselman, a previous BOT member, was hired.

Kunselman retired from the BOT two days before the COO position was introduced and offered to him.

“This appointment was made in the absence of a public advertisement of the position’s responsibilities and in the absence of a national, open search,” Winkler said.

“In effect, both the president and the board ignored board-approved authorizations governing hiring policies, procedures and regulations.”

Typically, administrative positions are filled after a search process is complete. Because this wasn’t the case for Kunselman, Winkler disapproved of the hire.

“I therefore ask you to rescind this decision and activate an open search process,” Winkler said. “And if you don’t, then I actually would call upon Mr. Kunselman to do the right thing and resign.”

Mark Schlussel, BOT chair, defended how they filled the COO position.

“The board has acted with complete integrity on this issue,” Schlussel said.

“The board establishes its own policy, and if it establishes a new position, it can establish the parameters by which it chooses to fill that position.”

While the BOT has the power to create and fill administrative positions like Kunselman’s, some faculty members hold views similar to Winkler’s.

The American Association of University Professors at OU (AAUP), which serves as the faculty union, had a forum the day after the BOT meeting to gauge faculty responses.

“Faculty think that the COO hiring has been done in flawed process,” said Kenneth Mitton, AAUP president and associate professor of biomedical sciences.

There are also concerns that there is not yet a job description.

“This role could have an enormous impact on the academic mission of the institution,” said Karen Miller, associate professor of history.

However, editors of the Oakland Post met with Kunselman to talk about facilities and ways to improve campus infrastructure. The discussion did not deal with academics. 

Some faculty want to know why the AAUP didn’t launch a vote of no confidence, Miller said. A vote of no confidence is a list of grievances that sometimes calls for a resignation or reversal.

“Generally speaking, they cause a change in behavior,” Miller said. “It’s embarrassing to have a vote of no confidence.”

However, AAUP hopes to find other ways to address disagreements.

“As long as we have those kinds of avenues open, the executive committee would sort of hope we wouldn’t have to go down that road,” Miller said.

Some faculty met with President Hynd, James Lentini, senior vice president for academic affairs and provost, and Schlussel on Dec. 7 to discuss the new position. Hynd, Lentini and Schlussel reiterated that the hiring process was conducted correctly, Miller said.

Winkler was the only person from the faculty side of things to speak out at the BOT meeting. Some faculty members didn’t want to because they were afraid for their positions, Mitton said.

“Technically, everything is approved by the Board of Trustees,” Mitton said. This includes promotions and tenure.

However, at the BOT meeting, Schlussel invited feedback.

“We would welcome faculty members here coming much more often and engaging in the positive process of helping to build this university by helping us make positive advancements in this university,” Schlussel said.