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February 15, 1976 - Image 6

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Publication:
Michigan Daily, 1976-02-15

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THE MICHIGAN DAILY

Sunday, February 15, 1976

DOES AN
L~d £U1 t's Un 1Ug3
advrement
interest yO .
OFFERS YOU THE CHANCE TO-:-
* Work with customers and assisting them in their
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THE WEEK IN REVIEW

LSA deanship
THE ADMINISTRATION last
week announced that Billy
Frye, the able, popular acting
dean of the literary college
(LSA) will become the perman-
nent head of the University's
largest school following a March
vote of the Regents.
The action surprised few ob-
servers. Frye had been hand-
ling the deanship, albeit with
no formal promises for the fu-
ture, for over a year. And the
University can only hope that
the issue which stained its pro-
gressive reputation one year
ago will now fade away - that
the bitter feelings will abate.
But underneath the calm fa-
cade of the apparent fait ac-
compli, there were rumblings
that the decision makers who
nominated Frye had seriously
ignored the qualifications of oth-
er candidates, one of the charg-
es raised in the handling of
the Cobb affair.
The divisive deanship first
came into the public eye last
January when high-level sourc-
es told The Daily that Jewel
Cobb, the black dean of Con-
necticut College would fill the
void created when Frank
Rhodes was named vice-presi-
dent for academic affairs.
THE ADMINISTRATION had
lined up solidly behind Frye,
who was credited with running

the college efficiently in the
midst of serious budget diffi-
culties. So the University stayed
silent after the initial report,
while behind the scenes, infight-
ing raged.
When the University finally
admitted that Cobb had been
selected, UniversitynPresident
Robben Fleming and Rhodes
were authorized to negotiate
with her.
The administration first of-
fered Cobb a two-year, no-ten-
ure contract - tantamount to
a slap in the face. The norm
for such posts is five years,
with tenure.
Cobb rejected that offer, and
the talks continued. The ad-
ministration then offered her
the same package again-and
once more she refused.
THEN, LIKE A chapter in a
detective novel, came the
next series of quickly-paced
events. The Zoology Depart-
ment, of which Frye had been
a member, decided not to au-
thorize tenure for Cobb. {
Their decision took a matter
of days -- usually such reviews
go on for months - and after-
wards, the senior scientist in
Cobb's field said he hadn't even
been consulted on the matter.
To Cobb supporters, the stra-
tegy looked obvious: the Zoo-
logy Department had cynically
withheld tenure to support their
own candidate, Frye. And Flem-

Cobb Frye

ing and Rhodes, they
were only too happy
come about, because
selves had backed
dean from the very

contended,
to see this
they them-
the acting
beginning.

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FINALLY the University with-
drew its offer to Cobb, claim-
ing that the new dean must be
tenured. Earlier, University of-
ficials had contended that offer-
ing the job without tenure was
not unusual. Cobb hadesaid that
she was still eager to accept
the deanship and would have
taken it without tenure if she
could have obtained a five-year
contract.
In mid-Februarythe Regents'
called for an investigation of
the Cobb affair. In May, the
issue flared once more when
the report was issued.
Generally, the committee
which conducted the investiga-
tion found that Cobb had been
treated shabbily by the Univer-
sity. Using strong language the
final draft said "Cobb was nev-
er accorded the courtesies that
generally accompany profession-
al negotiations of these sorts."
It also branded the hasty ten-
Eire review process a sham, and
hinted that Fleming and Rhodes
might have been less than sin-
cere in their negotiation efforts.
In May, the Regents voted to
appoint a new deanship com-
mittee, as recommended by the
committee. The committee was
instructed to consider without
prejudice any past candidates
- leaving the way open for the
committee to reconsider either
Cobb or Frye.
FLEMING AND RHODES took
to the defensive once again
when the report was made pub-
lic. They called the document
"seriously defective" and took l

issue with the conclusions put
forth. Basically they maintain-
ed that they had acted without
prejudice or deception, despite
a rising tide of evidence to the
contrary.
The whole handling of the af-
fair caused the University to
suffer a serious black eye na-
tionally. The Department of
Health, Education, and Welfare
was interested in the dealings
in Ann Arbor. Both the Chroni-
cle of Higher Education and the
Washington Post ran stories on
the deanship.
The new search committee
screened 100 candidates from
whom ten finalists were chos-
en. The finalists included three
blacks, three women, and one
Spanish-surnaned person. In the
end, the competition boiled down
to Frye, University Prof. John
D'Arms, and University of Penn-
sylvania Prof. Phoebe LeBoy.
But having three final candi-
dates was less of a choice than
it appeared. The deck was
stacked in Frye's favor. The
Regents didn't even interview
the final candidates, because,
as Regent Paul Brown (D-Petos-
key) explained, "Frye was such
a strong candidate ... we didn't
really feel it was necessary to
interview the other candidates."
AND KAREN STAHL, the only
student on the committee
commented, "Although the ad-
ministrative pressure was not
directly applied, it was there."
In the end it was.Rhodes who
typified the University's posi-
tion all along on the issue when,
in response to a reporter's ques-
tion he said, "I don't want to
be secretive about this, but I
won't tell you."
-Stephen Selbst

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