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May 15, 1975 - Image 7

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1975-05-15

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Thursday, May 15, 1975 THE MICHIGAN DAILY Page Seven
SA deanship crisis probed

ing considered for tenure in that
THE FACTS reveal in addition
that four faculty perso-ns on the
Executive Committee of the
Zoology Department were as-
signed to read and julge five of
the 33 publications which ap-
peared on Dean Cobb's curri-
culum vitae. These faculty per-
sons accomplished this task of
reading and evaluatiot during
the period between 7:10 p.m.
on Thursday, January 23, 1975
- after the five aricles were
xeroxed - and 2 p.m. on Fri-
day, January 24, 1975, when the
Executive Committee convened
to vote on the tenure question.
The evidence revals further
that Professor Morris Foster
who was one of the faculty
members from the Zoology De-
partment assigned to read the
five articles authored by Dean
Cobb, was specially selected to
serve on the Executive Com-
mittee because he was a cell
The evidence provided by Pro-
fessor Gans indicates that Pro-
fesor Foster did not read the ar-
ticles written by Dean Cobb un-
til one-half hour before the
Executive Committee met on
Friday to decide the tenure
question. We do not know how
much previous familiarity Pro-
fessor Foster had with D e a n
Cobb's work.
also solicited the oral com-
ments of three persons working
at medical schools other than
the University of Michigan who
apparently were familiar with
the work of Dean Cobb. Accord-
ing to the evidence this Com-
mittee received, these three out-
side persons reported that Dean
Cobb's work did "not represent
the most significant articles in
the field," and it was for this
reason in part that the Zoology
Department voted against ten-
Only one person at the Univer-
sity outside of the Zoogy De-
partment was contactol during
the tenure review pra.:ess. This
person, a professor at the Uni-
versity of Michigan Medical
School, gave a favo-able re-
port about Dean Cobb, but his
appraisals were either inaccur-
ately interpreted by the Execu-
tive Committee or they were
simply minimized when the ten-'
ure decision was made.
In summary, Dean Cobb was
denied tenure: (1) even though
she was assumed to be a good
teacher; (2) because three per-
sons from outside institutions,
whose names were held in con-
.fidence, purportedly asserted
that her work was not "among
the most significant" in t h e
field; (3) because five of her
thirty-three publications, which
were read by thr-P faculty per-
sons between the hoitrs of 7:10
p.m. (Thursday) and 2 p.m.
Friday), were not deemed to
be "the most significant articles
in the field"; (4) despite the
favorable comments given by a
professor in the Medical School
who knew Dean Cobb person-
ally and who is familiar with
her work; and (5) even trough
no one on the extended Execu-
tive Committee - wi-h the ex-
ception of Professor Foster -
had ever met her or talked to
THERE IS at least one addi-
tional fact whiih suggests that
the tenure decision could not
and should not have been made
in twenty-four hours. This fact
is that the Dean of the Medical
School in response to an inquiry
from Vice President Rhodes did
not make a tenure decision in

twenty-four hours, but instead
within twenty-four hours ren-
dered the following opinion
about Dean Cobb:
"We have reviewed her cur-
riculum vitae with the Chair-
man of our Advisory Commit-
tee on Appointments, Promo-
tions and Titles, and it is his
judgment that she would eas-
ily qualify for a tenure level
faculty appointment in the
Medical School. It is possible
to make this judgment from
the review of the curriculum
vitae and bibliography, since
she has a number of publica-
tions in national journals that
have a rigorous editorial pro-
Given the facts above, it is
difficult to believe that the
Zoology Department could have
made a valid judgment about
the qualifications of D e a n
Cobb in twenty-four hours. The
fact that the Executive Com-
mittee of the Zoology Depart-
ment met briefly on January 29
and affirmed its previous con-
clusion does not alter this Com-
mittee's opinion that the +en-
ure review process was inade-
quate. This Committee believes
that no person who is being con-
sidered to serve in a top admin-
istrative position in this Univer-
sity should be given such sum-
mary treatment in a tenure re-
view proceeding.
At the same time, it should be
clear that our criticisms a r e
purely procedural. This 1ommit-
tee is not qualified to j u d g e
Dean Cobb's qualifications as a
zoologist. Indeed, this Commit-
tee was instructed by Presi-
dent Fleming not to concern
itself with this issue. Evidently,
the information which t h e
Search Committee and t h e
Eoology Department received
regarding Dean Cobb as a scien-
tist was mixed. The procedures
used to evaluate her were man-
ifestly inadequate.
4. Tenure for Deans
The facts in this case make
it clear that the Zoology Depart-
ment failed to consider D e a n
Cobb's proposed administrative
appointment as a significant
factor in the tenure decision.
Some members of this Commit-
tee believe that such failure
was inappropriate. In other
words, the fact that a person
has been tentatively selected to
assume an impotant adminis-
trative position should be a

weighty consideration in t h e
subsequent tenure review p r o-
ceeding. Others do not bl:eve
that a proposed administratve
appointment should be a signi-
ficant factor in the te aure de-
cision and that tenure should be
awarded on academic merit
In addition, the President and
Vice President for Academic
Affairs failed to pursue the
posibility of securing tenure for
Dean Cobb in the Medical
School after inquiring about such
a possibility and despite t h e
fact that the Medical School
Dean responded that Dean Cobb
"would easily qualify for a ten-
ure level appointment irb t h e
Medical School." Some mem-
bers of this Committee believe
that the possibility of a tenure
appointment for Dean Cobb at
the Medical School snould have
been pursued as a viable option.
These members believe the
grant of tenure from either the
Medical School or the Zaclogy
Department should have been
adequate for her appointment to
an administrative positi>n. The
majority of the Commit.ee does
not believe that a grant of Med-
ical School tenure would h a v e
solved the tenure proolem in
this case.
S. The Regents
The ultimate authority of the
Board of Regents over the af-
fairs of the University, as de-
rived from the state constiut-
tion, is clear. However, unwrit-
ten past practices may become
unclear and confusing with turn-
over in the membership in the
Board of Regents, execntive of-
ficers, and other staff who are
responsible for the administra-
tion of policies, practices, and
Deans are an essential part of
the administrative line of the
University; they work directly
for the President and Vice Pre-
sident for Academic Affairs.
On whatever basis Vice Presi-
dent Rhodes and President
Fleming made their decision in
favor of Acting Dean Frye to
fill the deanship position, the
role of the Regents shoulI have
been to push them very hard to
explain and justify procedures,
processes, reasons, pras a n d
cons. Under normal circum-
stances and if appropriate pro-
cedures have been followed, se
Regents ought to give substan-

tial weight to the recommenua-
tion of the President.
If in this case, after such ques-
tioning, the Regents were still
unwiling to accept the recom-
mendation of the President, they
should have told President Flem-
ing and Vice President Rhodes
to think about it some more and
return after due deliberation.
In any event, the dean selec-
tion decision by the Regents
should not have been made has-
tily as it appears may have hap-
pened in this case.
year contract, this Committee
was told, originated with the
Regents; whether it did or not,
they should not have made it
or accepted it. The evidence
given to this Committee reveals
that most persons who have
been appointed to deanship posi-
tions at the University of Michi-
have been given either indefin-
gan during the past two decades
ite or five-year term appoint-
ments. More importantly, every
person who has been brought in
from an "outside" insti ution to
assume a deanship position at
the University of Michigan has
been given either a five-year
term or indefinite term appoint-
Therefore, the Regental offer
of a two-year term appointment
to Dean Cobb was at variance
with the practice heretofore fol-
lowed with "outsiders" who
have asumed deanship positions
at the University of Michigan.
This Committee can only con-
clude that the Regental offer of
a two-year term app utment
was inappropriate under tie cir-
cun'stances of this case.
6. The Process of Negotiations
with Dean Cobb
The process of negotiations
with Dean Cobb were confused
because of multiple contacts,
both oficial and unoffical, be-
tween various University sourc-
es and Dean Cobb. These in-
cluded The Michigan Daily, con-
tacts with parents of a student,
contacts with Regents (some of
which were initiated by Dean
Cobbs), and contacts with both
President Fleming and V i c e
President Rhodes. In the con-
versations between Dean Cobb
and Vice President Rhodes ar-
rangements for a time to meet
could not be consummated.
An additional aspect of he

problem was the manner in
which the negotiations were
handled by the President and
the Vice President for Academ-
ic Affairs. In would appear that
from Dean Cobb's perspective,
she was never accorded the
courtesy that traditionally ac-
company professional negocia-
tions of these sorts. When Dean
Cob was first contacted by the
Vice President for Academic
Affairs, she was not told that
she would be welcomed or giv-
en his support if she came to
Michigan. To the best of this
Committee's knowledge, neither
the President nor the V e Pre-
sident for A :ndemic Afairs of-
fered "congratulations" or
"welcome' to Dean Coub. Nei-
ther appeared to Dean Cobb
to be genuinely interested in
successfully completing the ne-
On the other hand, it should
be pointed out that, at the time
when Dean Cobb first heard
from Vice President Rhodes, he
had just come from a couple
of days of difficult discussions
about the Cobb matter. He was
apparently having some diffi-
culty in deciding how to handle
the negotiations with Dean Cobb.
The situation was apparently
distressing for Vice President
Rhodes because he was going to
have to tell Dean Cobb that she
was not his first choice; he was
concerned about the problems
that might follow from that ad-
mission. It may have been be-
cause of these difficulties, and
because he did not know that
Dean Cobb had been told by
friends and The Daily that she
was the Regents' choice, that
Vice President Rhodes seem-
ingly did not perceive (as he
should have) Dr. Cobb's expe-
tant state of mind, and he there-
fore appeared to Dean Cobb
to be discourteous when he first
spoke to her.
it is unfortunate that an early
meeting between Dean Cobb and
Vice President Rhodes and Pre-
sident Fleming was not arrang-
ed. Vice President Rhodes
should have been mors diplo-
matic in his initial conversation
with Dean Cobb, and he should
have been more flexible in of-
fering alternative times for
them to meet. On the other
hand, Dean Cobb should have
been more flexible and should
have pressed for an appropriate
time for them to meet. '
7. Disclosure to the Press
We recognize that the publica-
tion by the Michigan Daily on
Sunday, January 19, that Dean
Jewel Cobb "will be appo'ited
as the new Literary College
(ISA) dean," took the Univer-
sity officials by surprise. It is
clear that the President and
Vice President for Adadem.c Af-
fairs were not prepared for the
publicity and had not an oppor-
tunity to consider their proced-
ures as to how to consult or ne-
gotiate with Dean Cobb in the
light of the Regental decision
not to accent the President's
recommendation. The Daily's
disclosure resulted in an atmos-
phere which made calm and ob-
jective evaluations, decisions,
and negotiations more difficult.
The Committee beliees that
the press had the right to re-
port the news concerning the Re-
gental action on the deansi,) se-
lection. Certain membe s of the
Committee believe that the per-
son or persons who leaked the
information to The Daily acted
unwisely and irresponsibly. Two
members of the Committee
strongly dissent; they believe
the news leak to The Daily
was simply untimely.

'An additional as-
pect of the problem
was the manner in
which the negotia-
tions were handled
by the President and
the Vice President for
Academic Affairs.'
0 -

President Fleming

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