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February 18, 1975 - Image 4

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1975-02-18

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

1e Mt tn u Ij
Eighty-four years of editorial freedom
Edited and managed by students at the University of Michigan

Tuesday, February 18, 1915

News Phone: 764-0552

420 Maynard St., Ann Arbor, Mi. 48104
University abandons ethics

Cobb Chron
\ 7
y /
jewel Cobb

THE SELECTION AND rejection of
Jewel Cobb for the literary college
(LSA) deanship violently shook the
University community's perception of
its leaders.
Officially, honest men and women
were calmly carrying out the well-
ordered stages of a top-level selection
process. But the true story-the un-
official version-suggested that when
it came time for the crucial deanship
decisions to be made, the administra-
tion retreated nervously into a sound-
proof, smoke-filled room and checked
its moral responsibilities at the door.
The administration approached its
governing Board of Regents with an
expressed preference for Acting Dean
Billy Frye. Without casting aspersions
on Frye's unquestioned and impres-
sive abilities, we have seen that the
Regents' unanimous endorsement of
Cobb, a brilliant black administrator
and academician from Connecticut,
jolted both President Robben Fleming
and his academic affairs vice presi-
dent, Frank Rhodes.
men carried out the Regental
offer was at best severely lacking in
enthusiasm. At worst, it constituted
an outright attempt to subvert the
board's wish and prevent Cobb from
becoming dean.
Cobb, not surprisingly, turned down
the administrators' offer of two years
without a guarantee of tenured pro-
fessorship. While it is not clear
whether she broached the topic,
Cobb's tenure suddenly became the
keystone issue in her contract. Rhodes
asked a quick decision on that issue
and 36 hours later, the Zoology
Department's executive committee
emerged from secret sessions with a
unanimous vote against tenure for
Cobb, a cell biologist.
Since then, the University has used
the tenure denial as its full rationale
for flatly rejecting Cobb's candidacy
in the last week of January. But here
the bureaucracy demonstrates a re-
markable ability to absolve itself by,
speaking out of both sides of its
mouth: During that same week,
Frank Rhodes calmly informed out-
raged members of the Women's Com-
mission that deanship offers without
tenure guarantees are perfectly stan-
dard practice.
IN FACT, STANDARD practice has
been demonstrated to include dean-
Editorial positions represent
consensus of the Daily staff.

ship offers with tenure to be deter-
mined at a much later date. But in
the Cobb decision, Rhodes forced the
issue by approaching the Zoology
Department immediately. Standard
practice fluctuated just enough to
prevent one highly qualified candi-
date from becoming dean.
But that candidate was black and
female. Perhaps Fleming and Rhodes
underestimated the ability of minori-
ties and women to respond to abuse;
perhaps the highest officers assumed
they could systematically block the
Cobb appointment in a vacuum of
Neither was a valid assumption: A
number of high-level officials, ex-
pressing concern that unethical ac-
tions were in progress, provided The
Daily and the campus with a jarring
close-up view of the Cobb decisions.
And from a score of women's and
minority organizations came a unified
cry of outrage and disgust that the
University could insult a black woman
with a self-destructing contract offer.
AS ONE FACULTY member has aptly
suggested, the actions of Fleming
and Rhodes indicate a willingnes to
go halfway-to consider giving a high
post to a black woman, but to stop
short of actually giving her serious
consideration. The two men appear
to have decided that the importance
of naming Cobb was out-distanced b
the problems she might confront due
to bigotry and favoritism for Frye.
Thus we are forced to conclude that
racism and sexism, however subtle or
unconscious, played a key role in
Cobb's rejection.
The deanship uproar has demon-
strated an urgent need for the Uni-
versity to come to grips with several
crucial problems. The administration
must no longer view regental deci-
sions as flexible quantities that may
be bent to suit the wishes of the
president and vice president. Major
actions by the University must no
longer be formulated beneath a cover
of official silence. Finally, the concept
of affirmative action as a route to
racial and sexual equality must no
longer play second fiddle to a few
officials' ideas of what is right for
the University.
Sports Staff
Sports Editor
Executive Sports Editor
Managing Sports Editor

March 74 - Geology prof.
Frank Rhodes vacates literary
college (LSA) deanship to be-
come University's vice - presi-
dent for academic affairs.
April 74 - Student - faculty
search committee is formed and
charged with finding the best
candidate for the deanship.
They operate under the assump-
tion that any of the final nomi-
ness will receive tenure in a
July 1974 - Zoology prof.
Billy Frye, an associate dean
who w o r k e d closely with
Rhodes, becomes acting LSA
dean and steadily gains facul-
ty support.
November 1974 - Two Dem-
ocrats, Thomas Reach and Sar-
ah Power, elected to Board of
Regents, giving Democrats a
6-2 majority.
December 1974 - S e a r c h
committee presents its three
equally ranked final candidates
to the Administration in strict
secrecy. They are: Frye, Con-
necticut College dean Jewel
Cobb, and Cornell University
ombudsman and political sci-
ence prof. David Danelski.
January 18 - Daily learns
Regents have unanimously se-
lected Cobb for the deanship
after rejecting Frye by a 3-5
vote with two Republicans and
one Democrat initially favoring
the Administration's preference
for Frye.
.January 20-Regents meet in
Lansing with Fleming and Uni-
versity president Robben Flem-
ing, to discuss the faculty's op-
position to Regents' choice of
Cobb. They decide to offer
her two years and authorize
Rhodes toscall Cobb and open
January 21 - Rhodes calls
Cobb and without making a
firm offer says he can give her
two years. Tenure discussed,
but unclear which side initiated
issue. Cobb says she will have
to think about two-year term.

Ti::"i:::'.. .: :.:,:i.:::. :..::::.. :7:".' "::':":^:"::'iJ::": ::".:"."i:.:"::.. :.::: J::. ::::::: .:.::..:.' :t:::::. .1' "J::.: i J.'tt:"iJ-........

"We are shocked.
They are treating af-
firmative action as if
it didn't exist."
-Eunice Burns
Chairwoman of the
Commission for



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Power, duties:
LSA deanship
M1OST DECISIONS having to do with the 16,000 students
and 1,000 faculty membrs in the Literary College (LSA)
pass at one point or another through the office of LSA Dean.
The dean is the administrative head of the college, char-
acterized by former Associate Dean Charles Witke as "a
complex, highly articulated and developed set of interlocking
elements." To be sure, authority is delegated and the dean
relies, often heavily, on his various sources of information.
Nevertheless, littlte, if anything, is mere "rubber stamping."
The dean is responsible for translating the reams of in-
formation which reach his office into viable decisions which
reflect the College's intellectual context. Ideally, the dean
is a sort of "administrative fireman," enough aware of the
complexities of a large college to remain in control of any
situation, regardless of its particular nature.
Associate Deans, a support staff, the College's Executive
Committee, and Department Chairmen provide the detailed
information necessary to the decision-making process. These
sources gather, evaluate, and relay information pertaining,
for example, to the Student Counseling Office, the Curri-
culum Committee, and the Admissions Office, as well as the
Program Evaluation Committee and the LSA Student Gov-
FORMER ASSISTANT to the Dean Ned Dougherty sees the
Dean's role as follows. First, this administrator must have
a commitment to, and an understanding of, liberal arts
education in order to facilitate frequent re-evaluation of its
patterns and meanings. Further, the Dean is in charge of
developing innovative curricula and ensuring a constant idea
flow from the faculty. Finally, the Dean handles matters of
financial concerns such as funding, and budget allocation.
Acting LSA Dean Billy Frye envisions his job as that of
"facilitator." He feels the Dean should be attuned to ideas
which spring up in the "grass roots," among students and
New programs, faculty recruitment, graduation require-
ments, and other such strictly academic issues do not
begin to describe the job's boundaries; office services, physi-
cal plant concerns, budget planning and analysis, and many
other non-academic matters also come under the dean's
It is essential that the dean command the academic re-
spect of the faculty so as to deal effectively with them
on a day-to-day basis. The dean, also deals with problems
outside his or her own particular field, and strives to make
decisions in the proper educational perspective.
In order to handle the deanship effectively, the dean must
be a person of constant energy and awareness, a highly
motivated and diligent educator with a' strong committment
to administrative duties as well as to the academic goals of
the University community.

for tenure if she were to ac-
cept administrative appoint-
ment. He requests an early re-
January 24 - Zoology depart-
ment chairmen Carl Gans re-
ports to Fleming and Rhodes
that the Executive Committee
unanimously refused Cobb ten-
ure. No public statement is
made. Cobb calls Fleming to
request five year term after
learning LSA deans have al-
ways received five year ap-
pointments. Fleming indicates
that would be possible and tells
Cobb she has been refused ten-
ure. Cobb calls for a special
Regents meeting to see if they
can grant her tenure.
January 24 - Rhodes says
Regents ranked candidates but
did notamake selection.
January 26 - In a six hour
meeting with Rhodes and Flem-
ing the Regents agree to offer
Cobb a five year appointment.
However, after long debate they
decide not to interfere with
academic perogatives on the
tenure issue. Administration

"This is a personal af-
fx. front to every respon-
sible minority person.
It's not like they (Ad-
ministrationw) e r e
dealing with Mickey
Mous e or Donald
Duck. This could have
been another first for
the University to move
forward in affirmative
action with quality."
-George Goodman
Program Director

nority Commission, Affirmative
Action, and Black Faculty and
Staff Association members who
demand official information on
the growing deanship crisis.
About 200 concerned members
from above groups and several
high Administrative officials
protest Administration's origi-
nal two year, no tenure offer at
Regents' Plaza.
February 1 - Administration
admits Cobb was selected by
Regents but adds that mutual-
ly acceptable terms could not
be reached. Without giving spe-
cifics University declares its
readiness to publicly support
its action with regards to af-
firmative action if necessary.
February 3 - At regular
monthly LSA faculty meeting
Fleming reads an official state-
ment that says Regents decided
to discontinue negotiations whei
the tenure issue could not be
resolved in "mutually satisfac-
tory terms." He does not men-
tion Cobb by name and refuses
to answer specific questions on
the tenure decision or to com-
ment on reports that Adminis-
tration rejected Cobb finally.
Contradicting Rhodes' earlier
statement that non - tenured
deanshipswere, not uncommon
Fleming says, "You'll find no
college in which there is a
dean without a tenured profes-
sorship in that college." In an
earlier press release, retracted
by Administration before re-
lease, Administration gives a
more detailed breakdown of
Cobb's rejection, including
zoology department's refusal to
grant her tenure.
February 5 - Sources close
to Cobb confirm she had been
willing to accept second non-
tenured offer, but that Flem-
ing refused to hire her on those
February 10 - The Daily
learns that the Ci--il Rights Di-
vision of the Health Education
and Welfare Department has
requested written account of
Cobb crisis from University.
Cobb indicates privately she
would like Regents to begin
full, independent investigation
of deanship selection process.
February 11 - Regent James
Waters (D-Muskegon) call for
Regental investigation of dean-
ship controversy. Fleming con-
firms HEW probe. Search com-
mittee meets with Rhodes and
Fleming to discuss issue in
strict confidentiality.

Fleming denies having made
any formal decision on deanship
on local radio talk show, but
expects a decision within a
couple weeks. High administra-
tive officials who had earlier
promised a decision by the end
of the week admit they are not
aware of the Administration's
plans and have little informa-
tion on deanship.
January 23 - According to of-
ficial statement, Rhodes writes
to Zoology Department, asking
whether Cobb would be eligible

tells Regents that a non-tenure
dean would be "unbearable."
At least two Regents are will-
ing to offer Cobb five-year, no-
tenure appointment, leaving
final decision up to her, but
next step is left to Administra-
January 28 - Fleming calls
Cobb, tells her she cannot ac-
cept a non-tenure post. She says
she will take it, but Fleming
refuses to continue negotiations.
January 31 - Rhodes meets
with Women's Commission, Mi-

Cobb controversy cloaked

in secrecy'

Letters: Faculty on Cobb

FROM THE VERY start of
the strange events surround-
ing theiselection of a new liter-
ary college (LSA) dean, the
University's administration has
failed to deal openly and honest-
ly with the various problems
and questions arising from the
appointment process. As the
story of the aborted appoint-
ment of Connecticut College
Dean Jewel Cobb unfolded, the
members of the administration
hid behind a cloak of secrecy,
refusing to discuss the matter at
For almost a week, from Jan-
uary 18 to the 24th, President
Robben Fleming and Vice Pre-
sident Frank Rhodes refused to
answer The Daily's stories on
the Regent's unanimous decision
to name Cobb as dean. The pair
refused comment on every as-
pect of the decision, refusing
even to acknowledge that the
Regents discussed the deanship
at all.
THROUGHOUT the week,
Fleming and Rhodes would nei-
ther confirm nor deny any part
of the Cobb story, despite re-
peated requests from D a iily
reporters for statements on the
developing. situation.
It was not until the end of the
week, January 24, th.it Rhodes
released a statement - to the
Ann Arbor News. The News,
which until this point had not
nrinted a single story on the

gents made a final choice -
not a ranking decision - at the
January meeting.
The administration ~reated an
atmosphere of secrecy and fear
that soon spread to other parts
of the University. M st Daily
sources refused to speak on the
record. One high University 1f-
ficial did comment on the Cobb
controversy for attribution, only
to call the Daily back A sew
minutes later and retract his
AT THE special Regents
meeting Sunday, January 26,
the board discussed the admin'-
istration's offer to Cobb and
the Zoology Department's de-
cision on tenure, but the cut-
come of the meeting was a
closely guarded se,;ret. The
board went so far as to pass
a unanimous oath not to di-
vulge details of the meeting t,
the press.
As University community put-
rage grew over the handling of
the deanship selection, Rhodes
met with members of the Wo-
men's Commission and the Com-
mittee on Minorities to dLscuss
the situation. Acwo-ding to
members of both groups, Rhod-
es said he would "tell all" if
those present would keep it
strictly confidential. When they
refused to do so, Rhodes, in
turn, said nothing new.
During that meeting !Rhode

press release acknowledged that
Jewel Cobb had indeed been
considered for the deanship post
but satisfactory contract terms
concerning tenure could not be
The key to the tenure decision
lay with the zoology depart-
ment. But the reaoning behnd
the department's failure to
grant Cobb tenure was, accord-
ing to one source "the b e s t
kept secret they've e ver had."
Department Chairmani C a r I
Gans refused to comment on
the decision, and w lea pressed
on the subject, slammed t h e
door in the face of a Daily re-
porter. Faculty members within
the department refused to talk
to one another. When one zool-
ogy professor approa,%ed a col-
league who had been in on the
no-tenure decision, the latter re-
plied he couldn't disriss it, not
even to another department
THE FINAL University sta'e-,
ment on the entire controversy
was released February 3. And,'
like all the others, it was
shrouded in mystery. Early that
morning the administration sent
out a detailed acc cat of the
Cobb case - complete with
names and dates. But, later or.,
the entire statement was re-
tracted. A last minute personal
plea from Fleming prevented
the release from appoaring in
the Ann Arbor News..

"4:'r' #": : . ; : " : A. . . . .:

"In view of some pub-
lic comments I should
perhaps explain that it;
is not unusual for You'll find no collegea
those appointed to the in which there is a;
University administra- dean without a tenured
tive positions from professorship in t ha i
outside institutions to college. This is the ac-
accept these appoint- cepted course of ac-
ments without having tion.'
simultaneous offers of -lens ing
tenured faculty ap-'
pointments." ,
ed that the Universiry wifl de- tions.T

To The Daily: confidentiality was breach::d. ice. People familiar with this
AS CHAIRMAN of the Dean- ; emotion know its subtle power,
ship Advisory Committee, I Let me say, finally, that the its ability to hide, to rational-
have naturally been troubled at University administra.i-n acted ize, to disemble, and its isid-
recent developments. Hoping to properly throughout o-_w 1 o n g ious penchant for self-deception.
clarify matters, I'd like to of- deliberations. And I have seen Prejudicial feelings can on oc-
fer my original understanding no evidence that the admiaitra- casion completely dominate an
of the Advisory Committee's tion has proceeded other than individual and render the rea-
mandate. honorably and ethically since son of the erudite professor
Bmad n aour committee was dissolved. 3 completely ineffective.
By advertising and solicita- -Arthur Burks In the case of tenure f o r
tion, our committee was to pre- Prof. of Computer and Jewel Cobb, there were at least
pare a long list' of possible can- Communication Sciences three reasons why the zoology
didates. We began this 1 a s t and Philosophy department might not have been
April, obtaining about 140 nam- February 17 able to render a decision that
es. Next, we were to gatherI was based on the abilities of the
relevant information and pro- To The Daily: individual: her race, her sex,
duce a subset of the 10 :o 12 IN ITS DEALINGS with wo- and the fact that a rival can-
top contenders. men and minorities, the Univer- didate was himself a member
Our final task was to conduct sity of Michigan has frequently of the same zoology depart-
a more extensive investigation made decisions against an in- ment.
of these candidates, including dividual. In some cases, the The University administration
interviews as desired. T n i s decision has been justified on has maintained that it cannot
phase was to terminate in a list the basis of an argument that take exception to departmental
of from 3 to 6 candidates, each appears to have some merit, decisions regarding personnel
of whom would be acceptable but which is, in fact, specious. because it lacks the exper'ise
to the committee as a whole. The most recent example of to make such decisions. It
such a case was the deanship maintains that only the de-
THE COMMITTEE was not to offer made to Dr. Jewel Cobb. partment has the. special know-
rank the names on this final It is worthwhile to consider this ledge that is needed,
list. Individual members of the specific case, since it offers a An administrative official can
committee, however, were free concrete example of how the inform himself of the comper-
to rank the candidates and to public has been offered a justi- ence and reputation of an in-
express their opinions of each fication for action that is based dividual by appealing to the ex-
one both pro and con. This was on a fallacy. pertise that is readily avaijable
done at a meeting with Presi- The academic department on numerous campuses and>'or
dent Fleming and Vice Presi- plays a pivotal role in these in professional organizations.
dent Rhodes on De:ember 12, questions. These autonomous A REASONABLE procedure
after which the committee was groups within the university ore would be to appeal to outside
discharged. given almost complete freedom'professional opinions in t h o s e
But the process of iquiry was with regard to decisions such as cases where there is a clear
not meant to stop there. It was hiring. tenure, or firing of un-. ,:- s- :f:., -

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