Administration hosts open forum to discuss concerns and preferences for new provost


Ryan Pini

Community members discuss opinions on preferred traits and qualifications for a new provost. Current provost James Lentini is set to leave at the end of the winter semester.

Administrators held an open forum Tuesday, Jan. 14 to discuss concerns the Oakland University community has with regard to the search for a new provost. With current provost James Lentini set to leave at the end of the semester, the university wanted to collect input on preferred qualifications and key traits from across campus.

Hosted by Vice President for Student Affairs and Chief Diversity Officer Glenn McIntosh and Administrative Assistant Lori Marsh in the Oakland Center, the forum discussed topics of academic and research backgrounds, diversity, leadership styles and civic engagement. 

Members from across the community — including administrators, faculty, staff and students — attended one of the three sessions to voice their opinions. The discussion circled back to one concern in particular — will the new provost have proof of experience and success? 

“We need to have people who have experience at this type of university and know what the challenges are and have demonstrated success at this type of place,” said Robert Novia, associate dean of graduate studies for the William Beaumont School of Medicine. 

In addition to experience, many faculty members were interested in a candidate who had a strong research and academic record. 

“I think that in this particular case, that [a candidates’ administrative experience] is of secondary importance,” said Andrei Slavin, distinguished professor and chair of the physics department. “The university right now is trying to become a really first-class research university … we need a person who will have a vision in terms of bringing this place into a first-class rating.”

Diversity experience came up often in the discussion from faculty, students and staff members present at the forum.

“I would like to see a provost with greater commitment to diverse faculty because we are a very small minority here on campus,” said Chaunda Scott, president of the Black Faculty Association and diversity and inclusion specialist in the School of Education and Human Services. “We work here, but we don’t know if we’re part of the community.” 

Faculty and staff members were very interested in the leadership ability and style of the new provost, and how the search team will measure that quality in the potential candidates. Many expressed a frustration with the current speed of the bureaucracy, which according to Slavin is “like molasses.” 

“It’s a fertile environment right now for someone with some initiative and stick-to-it-ness to see some wins early on and be successful,” said Interim Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Joseph Shively.

The audience agreed that someone with a productive mindset and positive attitude will be important qualities in the new provost in order to create a successful campus environment.

“Another thing that is very important is the attitude of this person because we do not want a king who will rule us,” Slavin said. “We need to hire an effective manager who will serve us, and that understanding should be deep in his brain.”

At the end of the forum, the audience asked what qualifications the administrators are focusing on in their search thus far, and will continue to look for in the future. 

“[We are looking for someone] with a strong research record, who will be able to work with faculty, who will understand what it might take to grow graduate or research programs or research efforts,” Marsh said. “Then, there is the leadership and management side of it, right. Someone who has actually had a track record, who has accomplished several initiatives, has moved programs or maybe built an academic program that hadn’t existed before … another thing that we look for is how they’ve done that.”