Majority of faculty declare provost “very ineffective”

The job performance of Provost Michael Stevenson (right) was a contentious topic of conversation last Friday at the March meeting of the faculty senate
Randy Hazelton
The job performance of Provost Michael Stevenson (right) was a contentious topic of conversation last Friday at the March meeting of the faculty senate

Posted on March 10, 2014 in News
By Sidney Dritz

The immediate importance of the faculty survey evaluating the job performance of Provost Michael Stevenson is, as with so many things at USM lately, tied up in the Direction Package.

In mid-December, the Faculty Senate exercised its right and responsibility as detailed in the governance documents to evaluate the performance of top administrators, sending out a survey of 46 questions about the effectiveness of the provost’s performance according to his job description, 44 used ratings from one to five. The survey was sent out to 615 full- and part-time faculty members and received 196 responses. The scores were low across the board, with 57.82 percent of the respondents describing his overall performance as “very ineffective,” or a one out of five.

Stevenson responded in a statement to the Free Press. “I acknowledge and appreciate the role of the Faculty Senate in providing feedback to senior administrators. It is very important for those in such roles to take relevant feedback under consideration and to use it to help improve performance.”

Physics professor and Faculty Senate Chair Jerry LaSala noted that one of the main concerns associated with the lack of confidence in the provost’s job performance is that Provost Stevenson is the only representative from academics on the President’s Council, which is the group that will be advising President Kalikow on the recommendations for the university’s future she will be making on March 15.

The results of the survey were first presented to the Faculty Senate at their Feb. 7 meeting, and further discussed at last Friday’s meeting.

LaSala and the committee that administered the survey met with University of Maine System Chancellor James Page after the Direction Package Advisory Board presentation on Feb. 28 to discuss how the survey’s results will affect Stevenson’s participation in the President’s Council, which has now taken over for the advisory board in determining the university’s next steps in facing deficits and cuts.

LaSala reported back to the senate that Page had decided to adopt one of the ideas the committee set forward, which was to assign an advisory committee to the provost specifically for his work on the President’s Council, which would be comprised of two faculty members and one representative of the community outside the university.

Page selected electrical engineering associate Professor Carlos Lück and associate Professor of classics Jeanine Uzzi as the faculty members to be on the committee, both of whom accepted the posts. At the time of the Faculty Senate meeting, LaSala said, Page had asked his choice of community representative to join the committee, but had not yet received a reply or released the name.

“I should add that the president and the provost have both accepted this proposal,” LaSala said.

Beyond the Direction Package, President Kalikow told the senate that she intends to pursue the survey by conducting what she described as a “360 evaluation,” which, she said, would be comprised of evaluations of the provost done by each group he works with, including the faculty, the president herself and the deans of the colleges. Kalikow said she has not yet determined exactly which groups those will be and that she will discuss the question with the provost.

Associate history Professor Eileen Eagan raised the question of whether the committee that administered the survey and its respondents had a bias, but English Professor Nancy Gish noted that questioning the motives of members of the Faculty Senate during senate meetings was against rules laid out in the senate’s governance documents.
“The Faculty Senate has done its job,” Kalikow said. The next part of the job of evaluating the provost, she noted, is hers. The results of Kalikow’s 360 evaluation are due to be presented at the Faculty Senate meeting scheduled for May 2.