Delta State University in Cleveland is seeking a new dean to lead the college of arts and sciences nearly three months after the faculty senate called for the current dean’s resignation.
The administration revealed the search for a new dean, along with five other executive-level positions, near the end of a town hall last week that was largely dedicated to the financial position of the regional college in the Mississippi Delta.
But it is unclear what, if any, connection the search has to the faculty senate’s unusual no-confidence vote in November that called on the current dean, Ellen Green, to resign, citing a failure to advocate for faculty and an ineffectiveness in handling tenure and promotion cases. Many faculty can’t remember the last time the faculty senate writ-large took such a vote.
When the president, Daniel Ennis, was asked during the town hall for an update on the administration’s response to the no-confidence vote, he refused to answer the question.
“I’m not going to make any response to that at this forum,” Ennis said. “As to when — I don’t have a good answer for that. Just gonna step aside on that question.”
A few minutes later, a different question led Ennis to share that a search for a new dean would be underway. It was also shared that the university had selected a headhunting firm, Coleman Lew Canny Bowen, after seeking requests-for-proposals last fall.
Green, a biology professor, was appointed interim dean in 2020. Her predecessor came to Delta State following a national search. Green is still listed as dean on Delta State’s website and did not return inquiries seeking comment.
Christy Riddle, a university spokesperson, did not answer questions from Mississippi Today about a timeline for the search or when Delta State hopes to have a new dean in place, writing in an email that “we are unable to comment on personnel matters.”
In response to questions about the search firm, Riddle wrote, “this information will be available after the (Institutions of Higher Learning) Board takes action at its next meeting.” But at the town hall, Ennis said he had taken foundation funds allocated to him to hire a search firm to help “with multiple executive searches.”
Christopher Jurgenson, the faculty senate president and a biochemistry professor, said the town hall was the first he’d heard of the search for a new dean. He said he had not talked to the administration about the no-confidence vote since it passed in November.
“What we do know is the resolution passed, and we found that we were getting a new dean,” Jurgenson said. “What transpired between those two things, how they were connected, I don’t really know.”
Jurgenson added he believes the administration has to be careful about what it says due to at least two employment lawsuits the cash-strapped university has recently faced. In one of those cases settled last year, an Iranian former art professor said that Green locked him in his office until he agreed to resign after his department chair, who is Turkish, allegedly sought to replace him with a fellow Turk.
Still, Jurgenson said this administration has been more collegial with faculty than prior ones. He noted he’s received no blowback on the no-confidence vote, something some faculty senators were worried about.
“Something I want to emphasize is just to remind everybody, what we’re doing here matters, people are listening and don’t give up,” Jurgenson said.
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