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May 16, 1975 - Image 5

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1975-05-16

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I Friday, May 6, 1975


Page Five


Report on the Cobb affair

At the beginning of the
month, the University's Affirm-
ative Action Committee releas-
ed a 46-page report on the lit-
erary college (LSA) deanship
crisis. The report provided a
detailed account of the so-call-
ed "Cobb affair," and reaffirm-
ed The Daily's disclosures of
the administration's rejection
of Jewel Cobb, the black woman
educator selected unanimously
by the Regents last January to
head LSA.
Unfortunately only limited
editions of the report have been
made available. To provide the
campus with complete informa-
tion, The Daily has excerpted
the major portions of the so-
called "Cobb report" for re-
printing here. Not included are
the report's chronology and ap-
pendices, due to space require-
ments. Both sections, we be-
lieve, are adequately summar-
ized in the report's findings
and recommendations. Yester-
day's Daily included the find-
ings: today the recommenda-
tions follow. If you would like
extra copies of both sections,
nlense stop by our office at 4201
1. The Charge to the Search
There were four specific re-
sonsibilities placed uoon t h e
Search Committee in the Presi-
dent's memorandum of April 4,
With respect to the first fnc-
tion ("Prepare secifications of
qualities and ex.erience to be
sought in the new dean."), the
Sear-h Committee prepared a
list of eleven criteria used in con-
sidering nominees. These criter-
ia were very general. We can
find no indication that the cri-
teria were submitted to or re-
viewed by the President (Rob-
hen Fleming) or the Vice Pres-
ident for Academic Affairs
(Frank Rhodes).
With respect to future dean-
shin searches, we recommend
that the crrent needs of the
school be considered and that
iob-related criteria for deans
be more secific: that the state-
ment of current needs and job-
related criteria eereed vnon
in advance b the Search Com-
ttee and the President and
Vice President for Academic
Affairs: and that the statement
of current needs and job-relat-
e criteria be transmitted to the
Regents for their information
and use when candidates are
beinginterviewd by them.
With respect to the fourth
function ("Determine ad ad-
vise the President concerning
the immediate and long-range
problems facing the s pool
against which the qualifications
and interests of -rospective can-
didates can b a-ged."), we re-
ceived no evidence that the
Search Committee carried out
this request. We believe the re-
quest was an appropriate one
and measures should have been
taken to comply with the re-
quest in writing.
This Committee also believes
that Deanship Search Commit-
tees should always submit a fin-
al report to the President, in re-
sponse to the charges of the
Search Committee, and that this
final report should always be
in writing.
2. The Tenure Request Letter
The January 23, 1975 letters
from Vie President Rhodes to
the Chairman of the Zoology De-
partment (Carl Gans) and to
the Dean of the Medical School
(John Gronvall), with respect
o tenure for (Conn. College Dean
Jewel) Cobb, were the sub-
ject of much discussion and con-
cern by this Committee. A

'We recommend. that
the President (either ap-
point a new Search Com-
mittee or) resume discus-
sions with Dean Cobb on
the basis of specific policies
then established by the Re-
W VI gents.'
Jewel Cobb

majority of the Committee be-
lieves that the letter was am-
bigions. We recommend that in
all instances in the future, such
letters, which inquire about ten-
ure for deans, should be writ-
ten so as to avoid any doubts
abo'it the meaning of such let-
ters or difficulties in responding
to such letters.
3. The Role of the President
Whenever a Dean Search Com-
mittee recommends a list of
unranked candidates, from
which list the President will se-
lect a person or persons to
recommend to the Regents, the
President should carefully in-
ter-iew all the persons stilt be-
ing given serious consileration
before making his recommenda-
tion to the Regents. This inter-
vieu shorld represent a quality
effort by the President to care-
fully measure the relevant tal-
ents of each of the competing
candidates pursuant to the cur-
rent needs of the school and the
previo'isly agreed upon job-re-
lated criteria.
From our review of the tele-
shone negotiations between Dean
Cobb and President Fleming
and Vice President Rhodes in
Janiry of 1975. we have come
to the conclusion that if mo-e-
than one person is handling ne-
gotiations (and arranging meet-
ings), there is the possibility
of misunderstanding and con-
fision. In the future the respon-
sibility for negotiations w i t h
(arosoective deans should be
handled exclusively by the Pres-
ident or exclusively by a per-
son who has been clearly design-
ated by the President.
4. Tenure for Deans
President Fleming st-ted to
this Committee that lie strongly
advocated a policy requiring all
deans to have tenured appoint-
ments in the college in which
they serve in an administrative
deanship capacity. Our review
of this case has raised in our
minds the question as to whe-
ther such a policy should be
continued in all cases in the fu-
ture. We believe that the ques-
tion should be reconsiderel.
We recommend that appro-
priate measures should be tak-
en to obtain the advice of the
faculty of the school concerned
on this issue, i.e., whether a
dean must always have (1) a
tenured appointment and (2) in
the unit in which he or she is to
serve as dean, or (3) whether
alternative arrangements would
be acceptable to the faculty.
The Committee believes that,
if tenure is to be a require-
ment for administrative appoint-
ment, then all candidates for
dean who are being considered
by the Regents should be clear-

ed for tenure before slection
by the Regents.
A majority of the Committee
also believes that if tenure is
to be a requirement for ad-
ministrative appointment, .hen
the administrative competence
of a person being considered by
the Regents for a deanship ap-
pointment should be given some
weight in the tenure proceso.
One member of the Committee
does not share this view.
Committee believe that the cri-
teria used by the Zoology De-
partment during the tenure re-
view process in this case were
inadequate because no signii-
cant weight was given to the
fact that Dean Cobb had been
tentatively selected to serve as
the next dean of LS&A. Other
members of the Committee do
not share this view. The Com-
mittee is equally divided on this
5. Disclosure to the Press
Unrelated to what may or may
not have happened in the Jewel
Cobb-case and whatever one may
think about the disclosure of
Regental actions to The Michi-
gas Daily, it is realistic to as-
some that it is difficult if not
almost impossible, to defer
any announcement u n t ii
all negotiations for a prospec-
tive dean are mutually satis-
factory and completed.
We recommend, therefore,
that in the future initial Re-
gental actions with respect to
deans be clearly considered ten-
tative until final consummation
of negotiations is reported by
the President to the Regents
and announced publicly by the
6. The Regents
In the Cobb case the Regents
exercised their right to vote for
the candidate of their choice
which was not the first ranked
candidate of the President. We
believe that this decision was
taken under circumstances
which the Regents and the
President did not anticipate and
hence there should have been
more time for consideration of
all the elements surrounding the
terms and conditions of any of-
fer to Dean Cobb. We recom-
mend that when there is a sig-
nificant difference of opinion
concerning a major appoint-
ment, the decision regarding the
selection of a candidate and the
possible terms of appointment
be made simultaneously after
further and careful deliberation.
We recommend that before a
decision is made to select a
dean, all Regents should, it at
all possible, interview the can-
WHILE most members of the

Committee believe the two-year
term offered by the Regents was
inappropriate, we do not mean
to imply that the Regents should
be bound by a five-year or in-
definite term appointment for
deans. Other terms might be de-
veloped to permit flexibility in
obtaining o u t s i d e per-
sons. Three- or four-year terms,
for instance, might be possi-
bilities. Exploration of this mat-
ter should be carried out in con-
sultation with the faculty.
7. Affirmative Action
The slow progress of affirma-
tive action at the University has
a bearing on the Cobb case. In
the College of LSA about five
per cent of full professors are
women or minority persons. On-
ly one of the more than 50 de-
partments and administrative
units within the College is head-
ed by a black chairman and
none by a woman (aside from
the Center for Afro-American
Studies, the Women's Studies
Program, and the Center for the
Use of Learning Skills). Thus,
there was little chance that a
woman or minority candidate
for dean could be found in LSA.
Any such candidate almost had
to be an outsider.
An inside candidate normally
has the edge over an outside
candidate - by reason of rele-
vant experience, faculty sup-
port, proven ability to get along
with administrators, and the
like. In a difficult period for
universities, such as the pres-
ent, the arguments for the in-
sider may become persuasive
and an "open search" may be-
come a meaningless formality.
mend that affirmative action be
pursued more energetically at
all faculty levels in LSA, includ-
ing department chairpersons.
We further recommend that the
University establish affirma-
tive action goals with respect to
deans, directors, and depart-
ment chairpersons of units
where the incumbent will re-
tire or has a term appointment
ending prior to June 30, 1979. A
requirement for any such new
appointment should be a willing-
ness to support affirmative ac-
tion. We recommend that these
goals be discussed with the
We believe that these recom-
mendations should apply to all
units of the University.
8. Next Steps
We recommend that as a first
priority the Regents and the
President promptly take the
necessary steps to consider this
report and implement recom-
mendations made in items one
through seven. The Committee
also recommends that, after

such Regental consideration and
actions, the Regents consider
the following two approaches to
resolving the Cobb case and
act on one of them:
1. The Regents should auth-
orize and direct the President
to appoint a new Search Com-
mittee for the LSA Deanship
without prejudice to any pre-
vious candidate and consistent
with the applicable policies
made by the Regents after con-
sidering and implementing the
recommendations made in this
report; or
2. That the President resume
discussions with Dean Cobb on
the basis of the specific policies
then established by the Re-
gents. If su h discssios do
not result in a mutually accept-
able agreement within a reason-
able period of time, the Re-
gents should then authorize and
direct the President to appoint
a new Search Committee for the
LS&A Deanship without preju-
dice to any previous candidate
and consistent with the applic-
able policies madeby the Re-
gents after considering and im-
plementing the recommenda-
tions made in this report.
We agree with the overall
thrust of this report and be-
lieve that Recommendation 7
"Affirmative Action," is of
greatest importance. We hope
that this Recommendation will
be read with particular care
and implemented by the Uni-
versity Community.
At the same time, we believe
that the sequence of events re-
ferred to as: "the Cobb case"
was unfair both to Acting Dean
Billy Frye and to Dean Cobb,
both of whom have distinguish-
ed themselves as educators.
Therefore, we especially sup-
port Recommendation 8 (1),
that a new search bestarted -
without prejudice to either can-
didate. We only support the al-
ternative Recommendation 8
(2), if all the procedural mis-
takes cited in this report are
corrected before discussions
with Dean Cobb are resumed.
WE BELIEVE that the sec-
tion on the "Tenure Review
Process" is unduly critical of
the Zoology faculty. Not know-
ing anything about the stature
of the experts the Zoology De-
partment consulted, how well
these people were acquainted
with Dr. Cobb's work, or how
much prior knowledge zoolo-
gists on this campus had of Dr.
Cobb as a scholar, our Com-
mittee had no way of deter-
mining whether the Zoology De-
partment acted improperly. We
wish to remind the readers of
this report that the judgment of
the extended Zoology Executive
Committee was unanimous, and
that that Committee included
a Black and a woman.
Finally, we must assert more
strongly than this report does
our conviction that careful at-
tention be paid to faculty opin-
ion in the selection of a Dean.
We believe that President Flem-
ing and V. P. Rhodes tried to
do this when they recommend-
ed Dr. Frye to the Regents.
There are no doubt occasions
when faculty preferences should
be overruled by the Regents, but
in that event the reasons should
be carefully discussed by the
Regents and conveyed to the
faculty concerned.
Ralph Loomis
Professor of English
Dept. of Humanities,
College of Engin.
Eva Mueller
Associate Dean
College of LS&A

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